Vaughan urges the personal approach

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Michael Vaughan has encouraged each of his team to play their natural game in the three-Test series against Sri Lanka, which began this morning here in Kandy. The England captain believes that such an approach will give his players their best chance of countering the genius of Muttiah Muralitharan, and winning their first overseas Test series in almost three years.

England's last away series victory was in the winter of 2004/05, when Vaughan's side completed an impressive 2-1 victory over South Africa. Since then England have lost in Pakistan and Australia, and drawn a series in India.

"Every player has to play Muralitharan in their own individual fashion," said Vaughan. "I'm sure there will be players in our team who try and grind him out and play every ball on merit. But there will also be players that will try and attack him. All I have ever said to the players is that they go out and play their own individual game,because that is what has made them successful. As long as they have a plan; if the plan is to be attacking and aggressive, then go and do it.

"It would be disrespectful to the rest of the Sri Lankan team if we allowed Murali to totally dominate our thoughts and gameplans, but we would be silly if we didn't put him at the forefront of our minds.

"But the likes of [Lasith] Malinga, [Chaminda] Vaas and [Dilhara] Fernando are very, very good bowlers. They are also unorthodox in their own kind of way. But teams that come to Sri Lanka and are successful generally play Murali well, and that is what we are going to have to do."

Sri Lanka may not provide Vaughan's side with the luxuries and practice facilities of Australia, but the 33-year-old rates it as one of his favourite tours, because it tests him as a person and as a cricketer. "Sri Lanka is a hard place to play, but I have always rated it as one of the best tours," said Vaughan. "It is a great place to come and play cricket you are tested both technically and mentally.

"The games of cricket are also long; there are very few three-day cricket games, it usually goes the full distance. So it tests you physically too. And that is why it makes it such a good tour for all the players.

"We have a young side but the way in which the players have trained and talked, they are all very excited about the series, so hopefully that will produce good performances.

"We are all ready. Some of the guys were over here a few weeks ago playing one-day cricket. We all feel mentally ready to play a Test match and everyone feels in good touch. The hardest part is grooving those skills and making sure that your mentality is right to react to Test match cricket. That is the main challenge for the team."

England have won three and lost three of the eight Test matches they have played here, and Vaughan believes this series will be as close. "I feel the series could go right to the wire," he said. "If we are to win the series we will need to bat very well. All of the top six will need to stick their hands up and come up with good scores. And we will have to be very disciplined and skilled in the field.

"It is crucial that we hold on to our chances when they come along. That is why it is such a good test of a cricketer over here mentally you have got to be right on your game. The series will provide us with a good but exciting test."