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England win series in extraordinary day's play

COLOMBO, March 17 (AFP) - England clinched their fourth Test series in a row Saturday when they defeated Sri Lanka here as 22 wickets tumbled on an extraordinary third day's play.

First innings century hero Graham Thorpe steered England to victory by four wickets at the Singhalese SC grounds in the final Test of a fiercely fought three-match series.

England resuming at 175 for four were all out for 249 in their first innings in reply to Sri Lanka's 241.

The England bowlers then skittled out Sri Lanka in their second innings for a paltry 81 runs, leaving themselves with a winning target of 74 runs in 26 overs and two full days play.

England lost six wickets in the process on a crumbling pitch, but Thorpe played another cool and calm innings to carry them to victory.

The left-hander, who made an undefeated 113 in the first innings, scored 32 not out. He won the man-of-the-match award.

However it was Ashley Giles who made the winning run when he drove Sanath Jayasuriya to cover and scampered home for a single.

England's winning run under captain Nasser Hussain and coach Duncan Fletcher began at home last season with a 1-0 win over Zimbabwe, followed by a 3-1 (1 drawn) win over West Indies. In the winter, they beat Pakistan 1-0.

Hussain became the first captain this century to come back from losing the first Test to clinch a three-match Test series.

England, starting the day at 175 for four wickets, were dismissed shortly after lunch for 249 with fast bowler Chaminda Vaas taking six wickets for 73.

It was the fifth time in his career that Vaas had taken five wickets in an innings. His last five-wicket haul came five-and-a-half years ago when he had figures of five for 99 against Pakistan at Peshawar.

Thorpe kept England's innings in check and gave them a narrow eight-run lead by compiling his eighth Test hundred before running out of partners. He batted 330 minutes and faced 267 balls hitting 11 fours.

His fifth wicket stand of 86 with Michael Vaughan was a new record for England against Sri Lanka beating the previous highest of 40 by Alec Stewart and Ian Botham at Lord's in 1991.

Sri Lanka began their second innings in a positive manner racing to 21 in the fifth over, but the loss of Marvan Atapattu for his second duck of the Test, resulted in a steady fall of wickets with no ba

tsmen capable of stopping the rot. Their total of 81 was their second lowest in Test cricket. The lowest is 71 against Pakistan at Kandy in 1994-95.

Gough and Andy Caddick creamed the top order sharing the first four wickets, before spinners Ashley Giles and Robert Croft took over to clean up the lower order.

Left-armer Giles who came into this Test with figures of one wicket for 239 runs ended with four wickets for 11 runs. Off-spinner Croft took only one wicket, but did enough to keep the runs down.

Gough took the man-of-the-series award for his 14 wickets in the three Tests. He came back superbly from first Test figures of one for 95 to put the brakes on the Sri Lankan batting at Kandy and Colombo.

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