Collingwood aims to clinch 'massive' series victory

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England are aware that their efforts to make history by winning a one-day series on the subcontinent may not lead to open-top bus rides through the thronging London streets.

From 5,000 miles away they can sense that other sporting issues are exercising the hearts and minds of the nation but there emerged from inside the camp yesterday the distinct impression that they were adopting the attitude: "They can ignore us but we don't care."

With his side 2-1 up, and possessing an unexpectedly realistic chance of clinching the five-match series today, England's captain, Paul Collingwood, was succinct. "I'm not bothered to be honest. To these 15 players and the management to win out here would be a massive thing. Whether there's one man and a dog watching on his television back home I couldn't give a monkey's. It would mean a lot to us if we can take that little silver hat with us on the plane."

The hat is the emblem of the series sponsors and while it is hardly the Ashes, Collingwood was right, probably on both counts. The series might not have grabbed public attention, partly because of its timing, but a series win would be hugely significant.

It is extremely difficult for touring teams to win on the subcontinent and, for England, virtually unprecedented. They comfortably beat Pakistan away 20 years ago but there was always the suspicion that Pakistan's hearts were not in it.

Sri Lanka, too, may be slightly distracted. They care but they may care more about the imminent two-match Test series in Australia where they have bogeys to lay. It is one reason why their key bowler, Muttiah Muralitharan, has not played so far and will almost definitely not be risked whatever the score.

The whole country wants to ensure that he is fully recovered from his shoulder injury to face Australia – against whom he needs nine wickets to overtake Shane Warne as the all-time leading wicket-taker. His colleagues feel they have unfinished business in Australia where they have rarely done themselves justice.

None of that is England's fault. Since being overwhelmed in the first match, they have played with real gumption, a general cussedness and no little skill. "Full credit goes to the boys for the way they responded after that first game," said Collingwood. "There was a hell of a lot of talking done, not just at team meetings but around dinner tables and swimming pools, together in twos and threes. That was the key thing – people wanted to talk about things and improve."

Collingwood will definitely play in today's game despite a continuing niggle in his right shoulder. England may be bold enough to change a winning team if the surface demands it.

Rain is predicted, though it was sunny yesterday. Until this month, there had never been a single one-day match in this country in October because of the monsoon season. But Sri Lanka are unaccustomed to losing at home any time.