July 3, 2002

Stewart reaches another England milestone

Alec Stewart will become the first England player to make 150 appearances in one-day internationals tomorrow afternoon, when England meet India in the NatWest Series day-night match at Chester-le-Street.

Stewart, 39, equalled Graham Gooch's record of 118 Test caps for England at Old Trafford last month. Having scored a century there, he has taken his form into the current series, with 83 at Trent Bridge, 28 not out at Lord's and a crucial unbeaten 38 in yesterday's remarkable win over Sri Lanka at Headingley.

Stewart has batted in a different position in each game - yesterday he came in at number eight - and has been taking advice from the England coach Duncan Fletcher on how to perform later in the innings.

"I'm 39 but I'm still learning," Stewart said. "I had a chat with Duncan on the day before the game and he gave me a few tips about batting down the order when the ball is reverse swinging - where to hit the ball and how to hit the ball.

"He spoke to me about that on Monday and I practice hard and had two net sessions with Duncan standing behind talking me through certain things and telling me to work on certain things and that helped my innings.

"Where I bat is a bit like the lottery - it all depends on what number comes out of the hat. I'm really just glad to be involved because back in April I wasn't even in the set-up."

Stewart's recall this summer resulted from an injury to the contracted keeper, James Foster of Essex, but it is an opportunity he has grasped with characteristic firmness.

"Unfortunately for James Foster and fortunately for me, his injury has given me the opportunity in both forms of cricket and I want to try and grab them.

"No matter where I bat I want to do the best job I can. I've done alright in this tournament so far but I want to keep things going because we're only six months away from the World Cup."

If Stewart does make the World Cup it will be his fourth tournament, and he believes England now have a squad that could surprise the more pessimistic pundits.

"After a win you're always high and everything is always great, but I do believe we're moving in the right direction. The selectors have given this side some continuity. The nucleus of the players are there and they may bring one more in over the next couple of tournament but this squad are sticking and gelling together as a team - we know how each other play and how we're going to play as a team in certain situations.

"In the past you would be wondering what side it would be when you turned up, but now there are 14 or 15 players in there who know each other's games very well.

"For this next World Cup we had better make sure we prepare well, pick the right squad and play to our capabilities. If we do that and keep improving then we have a fair chance."

Although Stewart is England's most-capped ODI player, he remains well down the pecking order in the global list of appearances. India's Sachin Tendulkar has featured in 290 matches, while Sri Lankan captain Sanath Jayasuriya has played 260 times.

"I've not missed many one-day games since I made my debut about 13 years ago, but I'm only just coming up to my 150," added Stewart. "Someone similar from other countries like Pakistan or Australia would have played around 250 in the same period.

"That says a fair amount about our inexperience. The only way you can learn in this form of cricket is out in the middle - the more games you play, the more experienced you get and you recognise certain situations and know how to react."