Cricket: England blew it, admits Stewart

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THE ENGLAND captain, Alec Stewart, said his players had only themselves to blame after blowing a winning position in Wednesday's 10-run defeat by Australia in the opening final of the triangular series.

Stewart said England should have won the 50 overs day-night match after reaching 198 for 4 chasing 233. But Australia turned the game around by taking five wickets for six runs in 22 balls to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three finals.

"We did very well to lose it," Stewart said. "We shouldn't have lost that game. We needed 35 runs off eight overs with six wickets in hand. It was definitely a game we should have won.

"We've got to make sure we tighten up our cricket at the crunch times. Eighty percent of what we did was good but the other 20 percent cost us the game," Stewart said. "If we can fix that 20 per cent we can definitely win back-to-back matches."

Stewart's opposite number, Shane Warne, said he was relieved to have won the match but paid tribute to his bowlers for the way they fought back. "They [England] looked like they were going to coast home when they needed less than a run a ball," Warne said. "But I think we just created the pressure and forced them into bad shots. That's the beauty of this current Australian side. We seem to be able to pull something out of the bag when we need to."

The only dismal note for Australia was that Michael Bevan, their top scorer with 69 not out, will miss the rest of the series after dislocating a finger while fielding.

Once Hussain had recklessly charged Shane Warne and been stumped, England were knocked out of cruise control and spluttered to a 10-run defeat with four balls remaining.

At one point, Hussain and Warne appeared to have a brief verbal altercation in the middle, but Stewart said he was not aware of "any battle of wits, or battle of words".

Warne was more forthcoming, however. The Australian captain revealed: "He hit me for a slog-sweep for four. I said to him `You are allowed to get one out of 20'. The next minute he kept going. I wasn't exactly sure what was happening.

"He was pretty fired up but he's allowed to be, I suppose. In the end I was just glad to get him out; a pretty satisfying wicket. I was trying to get up his nose a little bit. He played a pretty ordinary shot as we were applying the pressure."