Cricket: Stewart still has sights on final

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ALEC STEWART remained upbeat regarding England's chances of reaching the final of the Carlton & United one-day series, in spite of seeing his side knocked off the top of the table after yesterday's 16-run defeat to Australia.

"We've lost two games, but as I've said all along we are going to try to win every match to get into the finals. We've got eight points, Australia have got eight, and Sri Lanka four. We've still got three games to go; if we win two that should see us through," he said.

Stewart also praised Graeme Hick, who cracked 109, his third century in four games, as England were bowled out for 223 in pursuit of Australia's 239 for 8. England were 162 for 2 at one stage, but lost their last eight wickets for 61.

"I thought 239 by Australia was a fair effort. We were ahead in the chase, Graeme played well, but the middle and late order did not quite stay with him. But saying that, Glenn McGrath, Shane Warne and Brendon Julian bowled exceptionally well, backed up by a tremendous caught and bowled, and other fine pieces of fielding.

"All credit to Australia for the way they played. But Graeme's a world class player and he's underlined that in this competition. In the last four games he's got three hundreds. He's playing as well as I've seen him play. He's got loads of talent.

"At the minute he's in a purple patch. He's really confident and I think he's showing that. His one-day record is excellent, he aver- ages 40-plus in one-day games. Among his team-mates, he's very good company; he expresses himself well, has good ideas and is fun to be with. But saying that he doesn't give too much away to people he doesn't know well."