Jan 03, 2020

Mahela & Murali to play Black Clash T20

Sri Lankan cricket greats Muttiah Muralitharan and Mahela Jayawardene have signed on for the cross-codes Black Clash Twenty20 match in Napier.

They will anchor Sir Graham Henry's Team Rugby as they look to spring another upset over Team Cricket in the rematch on January 17.

Apparently the Sri Lankans are both huge rugby fans – and All Blacks fans in particular.

A key member of Sri Lanka's 2014 world champion side, Jayawardene posted multiple records in every form of the game.

The former Central Districts representative was the first Sri Lankan to amass 10,000 runs in test and ODI cricket, while his innings of 374 against South Africa in 2006 still stands as the highest test score by a right-handed batsman in the history of the game.

Rated by many as the best test match bowler of all time, Muralitharan's haul of 800 test wickets may never be eclipsed.

"Murali still gives me nightmares, so having him pop up again is a real concern," admitted Team Cricket coach and captain Stephen Fleming.

"And last time I played Mahela he got a hundred in a World Cup semifinal. You couldn't ask for two better pros.

"They are both massive rugby fans so when the opportunity came up they both jumped at it."

Fleming fondly recalls having dinner with a star-struck Muralitharan in Johannesburg with a bunch of Crusaders rugby players who were touring South Africa at the time.

"Watching Murali with a man crush on Richie McCaw was fascinating. It shows how strong the All Blacks brand is in Sri Lanka."

While not a power in the global game, Sri Lanka boasts a strong rugby history. Then known as Ceylon, the nation hosted the 1908 touring New Zealand professional rugby team the All Golds – the forebear of the Kiwis.

Henry he recently attended an annual schoolboy rugby match in Sri Lanka as a guest of honour, with the match drawing a crowd of 27,000.

Henry has retained the core of the team that shocked Stephen Fleming's Team Cricket with a five-wicket victory in Christchurch in January, with his former captain McCaw returning alongside speedster Israel Dagg, the Barrett brothers Beauden and Jordie, former Northern Districts spinner Jason Spice, wicketkeeper Ofisa Tonu'u and rising cross-code star Kaylum Boshier.

"All the guys who played last year were keen. They enjoyed the experience – and they enjoyed the result," Henry said.

He confirmed the Sri Lankan duo would replace Shane Watson after the Australian allrounder was drafted into Bangladesh's T20 league at late notice.

He has also reclaimed Aaron Smith after the halfback was poached by Team Cricket for the first T20 Black Clash, and recruited Chiefs star Brad Weber and former Blues hooker Derren Witcombe.

"I think it is going to be a bit tougher this year because Flem has stacked his side. And they'll be embarrassed after last year so they'll be keen to do the business," Henry said.

Fleming confirmed a trio of new recruits headlined by legendary former Black Caps captain Daniel Vettori as Team Cricket looks to wrest the Lomu-Crowe trophy from Team Rugby.

"We weren't sure what to expect last year and obviously we've had to tweak it a bit [after losing]," Fleming said.

"We've got one of the most-capped, best left arm spinners the game has seen. Then Mathew Sinclair brings a ton of local knowledge, and we've got Jacob Oram with a bit of height so we can bounce a few of them."