Frontier gives Stewart time to rebuild empire

England arrived at the North-West Frontier yesterday seeking inspiration from a legendary place which once embodied the expansion of Empire. This intractable, mountainous area was the stuff of romantic warfare where 150 years ago British troops began a series of gruelling campaigns against a noble enemy they came to admire.

England arrived at the North-West Frontier yesterday seeking inspiration from a legendary place which once embodied the expansion of Empire. This intractable, mountainous area was the stuff of romantic warfare where 150 years ago British troops began a series of gruelling campaigns against a noble enemy they came to admire.

It may not be quite like that on Wednesday when England play the Governor's XI in the final warm-up match before the First Test but if they can leave with their dignity intact - not invariably the case with their military forbears - they will at least have been stimulated for the harder labours ahead.

These historic surroundings may be just what Alec Stewart requires. Nobody is going out on a limb about his state of mind in the five days since he was named in the Indian report on match-rigging.

Duncan Fletcher, the team's coach, conceded yesterday that the affair had affected his role: "It's got be of some concern. He's one of your team-mates and you've got to look at his behaviour and try to keep him going and interested in cricket. He's crucial to the balance of the side.

"Alec might be sparky tomorrow morning. It could take two days, it could take two weeks - you've just got to play it day by day."

These cautionary comments followed those of the captain, Nasser Hussain, who warned that he did not know if Stewart would be right for the first Test.

Stewart has firmly rebutted claims in the report that, on England's 1993 tour of India, he accepted £5,000 from a bookmaker for match information.

Ever the hand-on-heart patriot, he will have noticed the colonial military buildings as the team charabanc hit the outskirts of town yesterday. Who knows? All this may galvanise him.

England are being coy about the team they intend to play here, preferring to wait until they see the pitch. They must fear another well-grassed track, as they had in Rawalpindi last week, which will not necessarily favour spin.

They know that when the Tests arrive they will be on pitches that turn early and both batsmen and bowlers urgently need practice. The only certainty is that the quartet who were rested last week, including Stewart if he is judged to be in good enough frame of mind, will play.

Fletcher was forced to concede that the final XI would be pretty close to (and probably exactly identical to) the team they intend to play in Lahore for the first Test. "From the last Test side we played in England it's going to change a little bit. Obviously we're going to have a look at a spinner," he said.

By the end of the week, there may be a clearer idea of England's prospects. That will not mean they will be overwhelmingly good whatever happens but Fletcher was clearly miffed that the batsmen only had one innings in the match at Rawalpindi last week. The England win, by an innings and 27 runs, deprived them.

That opposition were not as stern as might have been expected or desired but England are in no position to complain on this score given the woefully inadequate teams counties put out against touring sides.

The victory should not be discounted. England have not often won first-class matches here. Suggestions that they had never done so, apart from the first Test they played here in 1962, might have been wide of the mark but their last win until they dispatched the Patron's XI on Saturday came 23 years ago. On both tours to the country in the 1980s they never won a first-class match. The 1977 victory happened to be in Peshawar.

* Lance Klusener struck fours off the last two balls as South Africa snatched a three-wicket win in the sixth and final limited-overs international against New Zealand in Cape Town. Man-of-the-match Klusener hit an unbeaten 59 off 42 balls to deny NZ a win in the series. In the Kiwis' innings of 256-9, Roger Twose hit his maiden international century in a record 150-run fourth-wicket stand with Chris Cairns. The stand was also the highest for any wicket for New Zealand against South Africa. Jonty Rhodes (69) and Mark Boucher (46) gave South Africa hope with a fifth-wicket stand of 106. Klusener worked with debutant Shafiek Abrahams (16 no) to put on 69 off the last 53 balls.

SCOREBOARD

Final day of four; Patron's XI won toss

PCB PATRON'S XI First Innings 237 (Qaisar Abbas 71; M J Hoggard 5-62).

ENGLAND First Innings 433 (C White 120, G P Thorpe 88, G A Hick 81; Mohammad Akram 4-105).

PCB PATRON'S XI

Second Innings Overnight Friday: 49 for 1

Naved Ashraf c Nixon b Hoggard 44 Kamran Ali run out 18 *Mohammad Wasim lbw b Hoggard 12 Qaisar Abbas c Salisbury b Giles 44 Salman Shah c Nixon b Giles 7 ÿJaved Qadeer lbw b Salisbury 0 Mohammad Shafiq c Nixon b Hoggard 26 Munir Ansari c Nixon b Hoggard 0 Mohammad Akram c Trescothick b Giles 0 Mohammad Sami not out 0 Extras (b1 lb5) 6 Total (65.3 overs) 169

Fall (cont): 2-59, 3-86, 4-97, 5-111, 6-126, 7-165, 8-169, 9-169.

Bowling: Hoggard 18-2-40-4; Cork 9-3-24-0; Giles 16.3-5-38-3; Salisbury 19-0-51-2; Trescothick 3-1-10-0.

Umpires: Kamal Marchant and Z I Pasha.

England won by an innings and 27 runs.

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