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England win press praise - by Julian Guyer

LONDON, March 18 (AFP) - The British sporting press, one of the hardest audiences to please, spoke with one voice here on Sunday to applaud England's cricket team following their 2-1 Test series victory in Sri Lanka.

"Sri'n Easy," said the News of the World, Britain's biggest selling Sunday tabloid.

Accompanying the headline was a picture of England fast bowler Darren Gough being given the 'bumps' by delighted teammates in Colombo after the visitors had wrapped up a dramatic three-day win.

It may not have been the picture "we've waited 113 years to see" as the newspaper put it but it was certainly true that Nasser Hussain's team was the first since W.G. Grace led England in 1888 to win a three-match series after losing the first Test.

At this time of year it usually requires an earthquake to remove football from the backpages.

England didn't quite achieve that - the News of the World also devoted part of its backpage to 'Come Back Klin', a story suggesting Jurgen Klinsmann was about to return to Tottoenham Hotspur - but they came pretty close.

Even the normally sober broadsheet Sunday Telegraph led its sports section with the headline 'Fantasy Cricket'.

Below a piece written by England opening bat Michael Atherton said the victory was "probably the best achievement by an England team I have played in."

The former England captain also paid tribute to impressive home umpire Asoka de Silva.

"We should ring out the bells for De Silva, who had a great match. He is young and has Test and first-class experience as a player; does that tell the International Cricket Council anything?"

'Bring on the Aussies' said the Sunday Mirror, a sentiment expressed across all the papers here, although Pakistan will play a two-Test series in England before Steve Waugh's team arrive later in the summer.

The Sunday Times went futher and offered nine reasons why England could regain the Ashes, singling out Graham Thorpe and Atherton as the key batsmen and also highlighting England's improving pace attack of Gough, Andrew Caddick and Craig White "as one of the best in the world".

Perhaps it was the Mail on Sunday that best captured the renewed confidence in English cricket after four consecutive series wins.

Australia fast bowler Glenn McGrath has said his side will win the Ashes 5-0 but the paper's response was curt: "5-0, McGrath? You must be kidding."

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