Cricket: Ashes tour - Stewart calls on father's expertise to recover form

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The Independent Online
ALEC STEWART has turned to his father, Micky, in an attempt to iron out the flaws in his batting which have prevented the England captain making an impact during the opening two Ashes Tests.

Stewart has made just one half century in eight first-class innings on tour and 49 runs in his four Test appearances at the stumps, completing a miserable match in Perth with a second-innings duck to hasten England's slide to a seven-wicket defeat inside three days.

However, he was one of a handful of players at optional nets at the WACA yesterday and utilised the expertise of his father, the former England coach, who is in Australia on holiday to watch his son's first Ashes series as captain. The pair had two sessions and spent time talking together about Stewart Jnr's technical flaws since arriving in Australia.

"We always have a couple of sessions a year," Micky said. "We usually get together before a tour and again after a tour just to have a look at things and how he's playing."

The captain has never scored a century against Australia and averages a mere 25 in Ashes games compared with 41 against other opponents; of only nine single-figure scores made in an unbroken run of 30 Tests, seven have come against them.

Yet he insisted yesterday that he was not over-concerned about his form. "He [Micky] knows my game better than anyone so it makes sense to use him while he's here."

Stewart's Surrey team-mate Graham Thorpe was also at the nets struggling to rediscover the brilliant form which marked his start to the tour, but was interrupted by fresh concerns about his troublesome back.

Thorpe had surgery during last summer to correct the back spasms which had dogged him for over a year, but after the long flight from Brisbane to Perth for the second Test he woke up the following day with stiffness which restricted his mobility. After four days' rest and acupuncture treatment, Thorpe returned to the nets yesterday in an attempt to prove his fitness for this weekend's match against Victoria in Melbourne.

He came through unscathed to put himself in line for selection, providing his back stands up to today's three and a half hour flight.

"I feel as if I have been playing fine on the tour," Thorpe said, "but it gets a little bit frustrating when you have to sit down for a few days and miss out. I have to keep working on my fitness to build my stamina up to get through games on a regular basis. The reason you get frustrated by it is because you don't really know what's wrong.

"The operation I had two and a half months ago came after 10 years of playing virtually constant cricket but it gets to a stage where maybe it's a little bit harder doing that.

"Maybe in six months' time it will be fine again playing on a day to day basis but at the moment I am working bloody hard to get through it all."