March 12, 2001

Alec Stewart's Sri Lanka Diary

In the latest edition of his exclusive diary for CricInfo, Alec Stewart looks back at England's nail-biting triumph in the Second Test against Sri Lanka at Kandy, which leaves them all square with one game to play. He also warns that controversies like those of the last two Tests will continue unless the umpiring problems are addressed soon.

It was a great win in Kandy. The atmosphere carried on from the First Test - controversial umpiring decisions, a couple of clashes with players (including Sangakkara and Atherton), all went on during the game, but the end result was that England won and won well. The final morning was a nail-biter - we needed another 70 with six wickets left, which wasn't going to be easy when they had the likes of Muralitharan and Vaas, who'd been bowling well in the game. In that innings Craig White showed the way he's progressed as a cricketer over the last 18 months.

Anyone who scores a hundred normally helps the side towards a respectable total, but more importantly, Nasser Hussain has been through a lean spell over the last 12 months or so. He hadn't quite been on top of his game and a lot of decisions have gone against him. But he's kept working and kept his head up - he hasn't let it affect the other parts of his game. It was nice for me to be out there to enjoy the moment with him - but it was important, not just for him but for the whole team and the whole squad. He showed great character - he's a strong-willed person, and he shook off the hardships he's gone through with that one shot that took him to the hundred mark.

As for me it was nice to get a fifty, and not so nice to be given out in controversial circumstances again! I'm very happy with the way I played in the meantime, following on from my form in the Galle Test. Judging by the TV replays I've probably been wrongly given out three times, but that's the way it goes. Nasser probably got away with two during his hundred, and I got away with one. It's frustrating, and it's distracted attention from some good cricket played in these two Tests. Unfortunately the focus has been on the umpiring and the number of errors that have been made. It needs to be looked at. Umpiring is probably the hardest job in cricket, but you drop players who aren't performing, and it should be the same with umpires.

I don't think some of the things that have gone on are good for cricket - it needs addressing. The technology should be used if it's there but I'm not sure of the best way forward - you shouldn't use the TV cameras for everything, because the camera sometimes does lie. But you need to have the best set of umpires available to stand in international matches - especially at the moment when you've got several going on at the same time.

Looking ahead to the final Test, the mood is very good. We lost in Galle - and again umpiring decisions played a part - but Sri Lanka were the better side. In this game we played very good cricket and bounced back well. They say the Colombo wicket is probably the best in Sri Lanka, so it'll be interesting to see what it's like. But it really couldn't be set up any better - there's everything to play for, much like the last Test in Karachi against Pakistan, and we haven't forgotten what happened there!

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