|Event:||Pakistan in Sri Lanka 2009|
DateLine: 3rd July 2009
Muttiah Muralitharan was on Friday ruled out of the first Test against Pakistan with a knee injury, dealing a huge blow to Sri Lanka's bid to win the emotionally-charged series.
The spin wizard hurt his patella tendon during training on Thursday and will sit out of the opening game of the three-Test series starting at the Galle International Stadium on Saturday.
The series opener will be the first Test match between the two nations since gunmen fired on the Sri Lankan team bus during a visit to Pakistan on March 3.
Sri Lankan captain Kumar Sangakkara said he was hopeful that Muralitharan, who boasts world records for his 770 Test and 505 one-day wickets, will be available for the second match from July 12.
"He was doing his warm-ups and he suddenly felt a bit of discomfort in his right knee," said Sangakkara. "The scan report showed a slight tear.
"The risk of him tearing his tendon in the first Test is very high. I don't think we want to risk him getting injured for a long time just for the sake of one Test. Hopefully he will be fit by the second Test."
Seven Sri Lankan cricketers were injured and eight local securitymen were killed in the March attack in the city of Lahore that forced the cricket world to abandon Pakistan as a venue for international cricket.
The series starts just 13 days after Pakistan defeated Sri Lanka in the final of the World Twenty20 at Lord's in London on June 21.
The Sri Lankan selectors have summoned left-arm spinner Rangana Herath and rookie off-spinner Suraj Mohamed to join the squad in Muralitharan's absence.
Herath last played a Test for Sri Lanka in December against Bangladesh, while Mohamed claimed four Pakistani wickets in the three-day tour opener in Colombo which ended in a draw on Wednesday.
One of the two is expected to partner prolific wicket-taker Ajantha Mendis for the first Test on a wicket that has traditionally favoured spin.
Muralitharan's absence will hurt Sri Lanka, who have never beaten Pakistan in a home Test series and are hoping to avenge their defeat in last month's World Twenty20 final.
Of their five series in Sri Lanka so far, Pakistan have won three -- including the last two in 2000 and 2006 -- and drawn the other two.
Its an extraordinary achievement considering that Sri Lanka, led by Muralitharan's amazing bowling feats, have proved almost unbeatable at home in recent times.
Of the 19 home Tests Sri Lanka have played in the last five years, they have won 13, drawn four and lost just two -- one of them to Pakistan by eight wickets in Kandy in April 2006.
However, Younus Khan's Pakistan have not experienced the rigours of a Test match on foreign soil since a two-match series in India in December 2007.
Even at home, Pakistan have played just one series over the last two years due to security concerns in the volatile nation, and that too had to be abandoned after the attack on the Sri Lankan team.
After the Galle Test, the teams move to Colombo where the second Test will be played at the P. Sara stadium from July 12-16 and the third at the Sinhalese sports club from July 20-24.
The rivals are also scheduled to play five one-day internationals and a Twenty20 match after the Tests.
(Article: Copyright © 2009 AFP)
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