Cricket: Stewart has faith in England's approach

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Alec Stewart has sufficient experience of one-day cricket and, whatever happens in Sharjah this week, he insists England must not be deflected from their long-term aims.

"The selectors are absolutely right to have picked the 14 they have for this Sharjah tournament," Stewart said.

"Darren Gough would have been in it, and Mike Atherton was also unavailable, but otherwise it is what we at the moment consider to be our best one- day squad.

"I think that the preparation and planning for the 1999 World Cup must start now, and with the players we have, plus home advantage, I believe we have a great chance of winning.

A one-day international veteran with 90 caps, Stewart is still upset by England's poor performance in the last World Cup because of a lack of planning. However, he can also remember the 1992 World Cup, when England came close to beating Pakistan in the final.

"In the last World Cup we played poorly but we also learned nothing from the seven one-day games we had in South Africa as preparation for it. We obviously had to reassess things after that."

Stewart sees no problem in England bringing just five of their Test squad to Sharjah. And he also sees Atherton's situation as being quite clear. "Test cricket and one-day cricket are completely different," he said. "I know that Athers will be looking to captain England and open the batting in the one-day series against West Indies this winter. Adam Hollioake, though, has done well so far but only time will tell whether he is up to the task or whether Athers can get back into the one-day side.

"Things have worked very well here. The squad has come together noticeably. Adam is a very upfront person, who captains by instinct. He is prepared to try things and that's what you need in one-day cricket."

England have two days of practice before the first match of the four- nations tournament against India on Thursday. Stewart said: "India, Pakistan and the West Indies have a huge advantage over us because we have only had three proper matches whereas they have been playing a lot of international cricket. But, I think we are ready. We had a good break after the season, we have done some thorough fitness and preparation work and we will go into the tournament looking to win it."

The England Under-19 top-order batsmen yesterday took the chance to play themselves into form ahead of Thursday's first Under-19 Test against South Africa. Robert Key, Steve Peters and Graham Napier all passed 50 as their tour match against Boland Under-19 ended in a draw.

TOUR MATCH (Paarl, final day of three): England Under-19 293 (I N Flanagan 68, G R Haywood 52; W du Toit 4-81) and 191 for 3 dec (R W T Key 78, G R Napier 56, S D Peters 55); Boland Under-19 253 (R Arendse 67, G Strydom 52, J Ontong 50; C P Schofield 5-82) and 83 for 1 (S van der Merwe 54no). Match drawn.