Victory sends Colombo crackers

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The Independent Online

Sri Lankans lit firecrackers amid wild celebrations in Colombo yesterday as they savoured their historic Test series victory over Pakistan.

Revellers used a national holiday commemorating a former premier to gather round television sets for unscheduled live coverage of the climax to the third and final Test far away in Sialkot, aware that victory was imminent. Sri Lanka won by 144 runs for a 2-1 series triumph - their first over Pakistan.

"We are no longer push-overs," Ranjan Madugalle, the Sri Lanka captain, said. His country's only previous Test series win overseas was 1-0 in a two-match contest in New Zealand last March.

State television, which had only broadcast match highlights during the previous two weeks, went live on the last day, knowing the country's passion for cricket.

Sri Lanka, beaten by an innings inside four days in the first Test, bounced back with a 42-run win in the second Test, followed by yesterday's victory.

The emphatic triumph gave the people of strife-torn Sri Lanka something to cheer. For the government, grappling with a bloody separatist war, bomb blasts and assassination threats by Tamil rebels, the victory in Pakistan brought rare good news. "Lady luck is smiling at President (Chandrika Bandaranaike) Kumaratunga again," one government supporter said. Kumaratunga immediately dispatched a message congratulating the team.

"Very few sides have won a series in Pakistan. That is what makes this such good news," said Anura Tennakoon, a former captain and now secretary of the Sri Lanka Board of Control for .

Harindra Dunuwille, the SLBCC vice-president, said a welcome-home party for the team was being planned, but he would not disclose any details. First, the Test victors take on Pakistan in a three-match one-day series starting on Friday.

Pakistan's last home Test series defeat was by West Indies in 1980-81, when they lost 1-0 in a four-match rubber.

Sri Lanka are the first team to win two consecutive tests in Pakistan since Australia, led by Richie Benaud, won 2-0 in the 1959-60 three-match series.

Rameez Raja, the Pakistan captain, said: "We lacked the killer instinct which was required after winning the first Test. We just let things go very easy."

Historic victory, page 29