Cricket: Champions Trophy - Stewart gem and guile of Fleming fire England

England 250 India 243 England win by seven runs
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The Independent Online
The lights went on for the first time in Sharjah last night to illuminate a first win for Adam Hollioake's England team. Defending a total of 250, after Alec Stewart's brilliant century, they squeezed home, as India, needing 12 runs from the final over, were bowled out seven runs short for 243.

As it invariably does whenever India play these days, the turning point came with the dismissal of Sachin Tendulkar, stumped by Stewart off the bowling of Matthew Fleming for 91. Prior to that moment, the Indian captain had brought his team within a bat's length of victory, with a near faultless display of how to chase runs under pressure.

But if Tendulkar's performance befitted a man whose experience extends to 168 one-day caps, spare a thought for Fleming, who with 167 caps less, bowled 10 telling overs at the death, a pressurised period, when the game could have gone either way.

Sweating profusely, and with his trademark Swan Vesta complexion, he operated with a mixture of military precision and the guile of the backstreet bazaar. Indeed he was just the major component in a good day for the Kent bowlers on display, as Mark Ealham and Dean Headley chipped in with two wickets apiece.

Having learnt to cope with pressure captaining a group of squaddies on the streets of Belfast, Fleming's debut was probably a stroll in the park. Thirty-three years old today, Fleming's 4 for 45 here has shown that just occasionally, in this ageist world, life can indeed be sweet and he must have run Stewart perilously close for the man of the match reward.

In between the fine performances of the two, however, Hollioake's men were not immune to some poor cricket. Although they fielded well, and bowled tidily, the later order batting collapsed. Losing eight wickets for just 41 runs in the last 10 overs is not usual when it is the opposition who are under pressure.

Hollioake may be a staunch advocate of getting his side to play intensive cricket, yet he has to realise that it must be played with the head as well as the body, something the middle order simply failed to do.

The glaring exception was Stewart, whose innings was simply a gem and one lustrous by even his own highly polished standards. Strangely for a man playing his 91st one-day international, it was only his second hundred, the other coming against Pakistan at his beloved Oval in 1992.

Content at the start, to watch his opening partner Alistair Brown attempt the aerial route during the first 15 overs, Stewart opted instead to find the gaps at ground level. Employing a ramrod straight bat and deft wristwork, he twice drove the ball back past India's tall opening bowler Abey Kuruvilla for four.

Far from being isolated moments to savour, these were but two sumptuous memories in a Babette's feast full of delicious explosions. Even when Brown was out, mistiming a lofted drive off Kuruvilla to Saurav Ganguly at mid-on, the velvet carnage continued as India's bowlers were made to consider alternative occupations.

With Nick Knight adding his own, more muscular brand of strokeplay, the pair added 89 in 17 overs, before Knight, tied down by some clever off- spin bowling from Rajesh Chauhan, holed out at long-on.

At this stage, England were 131 for 2 and looking set for a score around the 300 mark. Sensing the danger, India's captain Tendulkar brought himself on to try his unadulterated dolly mixtures. Unimpressed, Stewart treated the assortment with regal disdain by plonking successive rolled leg-breaks back over the bowler's head for four.

As the scores indicate - only England's top four batsmen made double figures - the top order had the better of the conditions. The pitch, resembling a marble slab but coming on like plasticine, made strokeplay difficult, particularly once the hardness had gone from the ball, which as it dirtied with use, also became progressively difficult to pick up under the floodlights.

Having helped guide an apprehensive looking Graeme Hick through the early stages of his innings, Stewart began to lose momentum. Having scratched about early on, Hick eventually made 32, including a towering straight six off the impressive Chauhan, before dragging a wide long-hop onto his stumps.

Once Stewart passed the hundred mark, off just 92 balls, he began to fade slightly and his dismissal, caught by Azharuddin at extra cover off Kumble, seemed a somewhat inappropriate end to such an auspicious knock.

Later, when England bowled, he missed two early catches - one sharp, the other regulation - off Dean Headley behind the stumps. Making him open and keep wicket may yet have to be reconsidered before that opening Test in Jamaica at the end of January.

SHARJAH SCOREBOARD

(India Won Toss)

ENGLAND

A D Brown c Ganguly b Kuruvilla 18

A J Stewart c Azharuddin b Kumble 116

N V Knight c Kumble b Chauhan 42

G A Hick b Kuruvilla 32

*A J Hollioake b Kuruvilla 4

M A Ealham run out 9

G P Thorpe run out 3

M V Fleming c Karim b Srinath 9

D R Brown c Tendulkar b Srinath 6

R D B Croft c Kuruvilla b Srinath 5

D W Headley not out 1

Extras (lb4, w1) 5

Total (49.5 overs) 250

Fall: 1-42, 2-131, 3-209, 4-211, 5-215, 6-218, 7-232, 8-237, 9-248.

Bowling: Srinath 8.5-0-37-3; Kuruvilla 10-0-50-3; Kumble 10-0-53-1; Singh 6-0-34-0; Ganguly 2-0-14-0; Chauhan 9-0-34-1; Tendulkar 4-0-24-0.

INDIA

S S Karim c Croft b Headley 29

S C Ganguly b Ealham 29

N S Sidhu c Hollioake b Ealham 3

*S R Tendulkar st Stewart b Fleming 91

M Azharuddin c Headley b Hollioake 3

A D Jadeja c Thorpe b Fleming 50

R R Singh lbw b Fleming 12

A Kumble run out 2

R K Chauhan b Fleming 12

J Srinath b Headley 3

A Kuruvilla not out 1

Extras (lb3, w3, nb2) 8

Total (49.3 overs) 243

Fall: 1-60, 2-64, 3-65, 4-74, 5-182, 6-207, 7-221, 8-232, 9-237.

Bowling: D R Brown 7-0-44-0; Headley 9-0-38-2; Ealham 10-0-43-2; Hollioake 9-1-38-1; Croft 5-0-32-0; Fleming 9.3-0-45-4.

Umpires: S A Bucknor (W Indies) and K T Francis (Sri Lanka).

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