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Wet blankets underscore troubles for England in temple town

COLOMBO, March 4 (AFP) - The second cricket test against England has run into rough weather with local Buddhist dignitaries raising fears of foreign flashers and the sight of Britons reopening a 186-year-old colonial wound.

Policemen deployed for the test that will open Wednesday in the historic temple town of Kandy are to be armed with blankets to cover any would-be streaker before he or she could shock the conservative home crowds.

The decision followed an unprecedented flashing by two foreigners during a rugby match in Kandy last year. Both were fined a dollar by a local magistrate for indecent exposure.

But the bigger bug-bear this time is the decision by the organisers to play the cricket match on Friday, a Full moon day, which is an important Buddhist anniversary on which all Sri Lanka observes a holiday.

Full Moon days are mandatory holidays on which no public entertainment events are allowed and bars and butchers are have to put up the shutters.

Buddhism's holiest shrine, the Temple of the Tooth, which is also located near the Asgiriya International Cricket stadium in Kandy, has refused to be a party to the reception committee for Nassar Hussain's England team.

The chief lay custodian of the temple, Neranjan Wijeratne, said he did not believe it was appropriate for Kandy, the former capital of the island, to host a British team so close to the 186th anniversary of the city's surrender.

British colonial rule was establish in March 1815 with the surrender of the king of Kandy to the British invaders who ruled the island as a colony till February 1948.

"Playing cricket for joy and being viewed by hosts of cricket fans from England making merry on our religious day is not at all proper," said the French-educated Wijeratne.

He also refused to send his temple elephants to welcome the English team. Cricket organisers had arranged a pageant to welcome the England team to Kandy, 72 kilometres (112 miles) north-east of here.

Sri Lanka leads the test series 1-nil.

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