July 24, 2002

Stewart set for record-breaking Test

Alec Stewart
Photo CricInfo
Alec Stewart will walk out on his favourite ground tomorrow to become England's most-capped Test cricketer. The first Test against India at Lord's will be Stewart's 119th for England, beating the record set by Graham Gooch.

At the start of this season few would have backed Stewart to equal Gooch's record, let alone beat it, after James Foster was named as England's centrally-contracted wicket-keeper. But Foster's misfortune in breaking an arm in the nets in April reopened the door to the 39 year-old from Surrey, who has taken full advantage.

Stewart is now likely to enjoy a final tilt at the old enemy in this winter's Ashes series, and the World Cup that follows in South Africa next February.

"The first (Test) is always your biggest cap because every schoolboy wants to play for their country," Stewart said. "I've never been as nervous as when I went out to bat in Jamaica on my debut, but once you get that you then want more because you enjoy the occasion.

"There's a thrill about playing for England and a thrill about testing yourself against the best from other countries and that almost spurs you on to want more of it.

"Some people get intimidated but others seem to thrive on the full houses and the big occasions and fortunately I put myself in that category - the more people watching and the bigger the occasion the more I like to respond."

He rates that debut among the highlights of his career, along with the Test in Barbados in 1994 when he became the first England player ever to score centuries in both innings of a Test against West Indies, and leading England to a series victory over South Africa four years ago.

World Cup campaigns feature among the low points, including the final defeat in 1992 and the campaigns in 1996 and 1999, alongside his failure to come even close to winning the Ashes.

Stewart's parents, Micky and Sheila, will be at Lord's for the occasion, which will be marked by a presentation to him from captain Nasser Hussain before play starts.

"I'll be trying to treat it like any other Test match, but when you see the list of people I've gone past like Gooch, Gower, Geoff Boycott, Ian Botham and Colin Cowdrey they are England cricket legends and that's quite an achievement to have done that," he said.

With the squad beset by injuries to Andrew Caddick, Marcus Trescothick, Alex Tudor and Darren Gough, England coach Duncan Fletcher said Glamorgan's Simon Jones has "a strong chance" of making his Test debut, although Yorkshire's Chris Silverwood is on standby in case of further injuries.

Meanwhile, the Indian tourists had the day off yesterday, following their win over Hampshire at Southampton, but the touring party attended an award dinner last night in which star batsman Sachin Tendulkar was named as the fans' choice for Indian cricketer of the century.

The official cricketer of the century was named in Wisden Asia's ceremony as all-rounder Kapil Dev, but Tendulkar, 29, who equalled Sir Donald Bradman's record of 29 Test centuries earlier this year, came out on top in the voting polls.

Tendulkar came out ahead of Sunil Gavaskar, who holds the record number of centuries in Test cricket, 34 in 125 Tests.

Tendulkar said: "It's a great honour to receive this award. Travelling with the team is like a home-from-home for me and they offer me tremendous support in what I try to achieve as a cricketer."