Cricket: Stewart shrugs off second misfortune

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The Independent Online
ALEC STEWART is not going to let the small matter of a bruised right index finger prevent him from taking his place behind the stumps in the second Test against India, which starts on Thursday in Madras.

The England vice-captain, who is the only member of the squad to have played in every match on the tour so far, was struck for the second time on the same part of his hand at Vishakhapatnam on Friday while batting against the Rest of India XI.

'I won't be 100 per cent but I will be fit to play,' Stewart said. 'It's still quite bruised and I can feel it both when I grip the bat and when I take the ball keeping. The contact with the ball sends vibrations through the finger because the bruising was around the knuckle. But hopefully it will be OK and as it's just bruising I'll have to put up with the discomfort.'

He has been an accident-prone tourist and had been tolerating a certain amount of pain from the finger after being hit during the first week of practice.

Of the other members of the party who have needed medical attention only Phillip DeFreitas appears to be in danger of missing the match. He is hoping to be rid of stomach trouble, but there are fears that he is falling victim to the virus that has made its way through the squad during the last fortnight. At least he has had no further reaction to the thigh muscle injury he sustained on 21 January.

Graeme Hick appears to be winning his battle with the virus after two days confined to his hotel room. Graham Gooch missed the last game because he felt unwell, but 'I'll be fine for the Test' was the captain's not unexpected response to enquiries as to his health.

Ted Dexter, the chairman of the selectors who is spending four days in Launceston with England A on the last leg of his fact-finding mission, yesterday defended Phil Tufnell but did not condone the 'ungentlemanly conduct' that brought him a pounds 500 fine and warning about his future conduct.

'I know Phil well. He is a first- class guy with plenty of character,' Dexter said on arriving in Tasmania. 'I am in favour of simple and summary justice if someone steps out of line. Everybody steps out of line now and again. It is up to Phil to pull through.

'He is very much a star turn for England. He has actually won three Test matches for England. He has a whole career ahead of him at the highest level.'

'Cricket is a warm-blooded game. You are a cold fish if you don't get emotional about it,' said Dexter, predicting a long and successful international career for Tufnell if he learns to behave.