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England savours Test series win with unexpected holiday - by Amal Jayasinghe


COLOMBO, March 18 (AFP) - England were Sunday celebrating their "unexpected" Test series win against hosts Sri Lanka and took advantage of a two-day holiday to go site-seeing.

England won the third and final Test by four wickets on Saturday to wrap up the series 2-1 with two days to spare.

There was no organised team recreation, but team spokesman Andy Walpole said many players were making private excusrions.

"There is a really upbeat mood in the camp today," Walpole said.

"I think it is a huge achievement for a visiting team to win a series, and particularly to do it in the sub-continent. The team is taking a two-day break."

Walpole said Nasser Hussain would not stay for the one-day series because he was suffering from a groin injury.

Four other players -- Michael Atherton, Jason Brown, Paul Nixon and Matthew Hoggard -- would travel back with him.

Their replacements are Mark Alleyne, Mark Ealham, Andrew Flintoff, Nick Knight and Alan Mullaly.

"It's a big disappointment to miss out on the one-day series, but my priority now is to get my body right for the challenges that lie ahead this summer against Pakistan and Australia," Hussainm said.

Alec Stewart is the likely candidate to take over the captaincy for the remaining matches on the tour.

Stewart led England in the one-day triangular series and the second Test against the West Indies last summer when Hussain was injured.

England play Sri Lanka in three one-day internationals, with the first match at the newly built stadium in Dambulla on March 23.

Hussain savoured the Test series victory Sunday, describing it as "unbelievable."

"We turned up on Saturday morning thinking it is just going to be another day's cricket and what a day's cricket it turned out to be," he said.

"The dressing room was such a nervous place chasing 70 or 80 whatever, we were always looking at the score. We knew how important it was."

"However much you play mind games with yourselves, you know chasing that and winning, is beyond anyone's dreams. That's why it was so tense out there."

Hussain gave credit to the team for their perseverance. "Every time they've been asked they have always come back. After the one-dayers they will be well rested," he said.

On Graham Thorpe's unbeaten knocks of 113 and 32 in the Test, Hussain said: "We needed someone with strength and character and Thorpe provided it".

Hussain said his team would prepare for the upcoming Ashes series against Australia with the same attitude that carried them to success against Sri Lanka and in three previous series.

"I am not going to give any headlines like 'Bring on the Aussies' and stuff like that," he said.

"We always had one eye on that series. We must think the same way as we treated the last four series."

He said the second Test in Kandy turned out to be crucial for them. "We won against a good side and we won back our confidence. Had the wheels come off then you never know what would have happened."







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