Stewart answers his critics with swing of the bat

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Governor's XI 224 England 241-5

Governor's XI 224 England 241-5

These have been unsettling times for Alec Stewart, but his batting, if not his reputation, appears unimpaired by the scuttler delivered by the Indian bookmaker M K Gupta a week ago. Taking guard for the first time since the furore broke, his innings of 59 mixed trademark shots with periods of watchful calm, a combination that suggested his mind was, after recent turmoil, back on cricket at last.

He was dismissed edging a ball he tried to leave in fading light. But, if that was the shot of a man caught in two minds, it was the only one. In fact, his innings oozed the kind of authority only matched by Marcus Trescothick, whose 93 was the top score as England, having earlier dismissed the home side for 224, finished on 241 for 5.

Trescothick's innings, which blossomed after a scratchy start, ended suicidally as the left-hander went in search of glory the macho way.

By contrast, Stewart began like a man possessed, not by doubts, but by adrenalin. His first three scoring shots went 4,6,4 and, it was only when the ball became soft and the field set deep that he reigned back.

"It's nice to be back playing again, and I'm very happy the game has gone for the team and for myself with bat and gloves," said Stewart afterwards. "I didn't feel any different walking into bat. I simply approached this game like any other."

Trescothick, who was stumped giving the left-arm spinner Mohammad Hussain the charge, verified Stewart's self-assessment. "I thought Alec played fantastically well," the Somerset opener said.

One man who would settle for some easy batting is the captain, Nasser Hussain, who again incurred a bad lbw decision. Although not as poor as the one he received in the third one-day international in Rawalpindi, when the ball pitched so far outside leg-stump Wasim Akram should have been ashamed to appeal, it was not far off. Yesterday it was the left-arm pace of Kabir Khan, and a zany interpretation of the lbw law by umpire Iqbal Butt, which sent him back to a dressing-room where all glass objects had no doubt been hastily removed.

While there is nothing you can do if an umpire saws you off, time at the crease is imperative for those hoping to rekindle their form. But if Hussain wants another knock - and he and the Michaels, Atherton and Vaughan, could all do with them - his best option is to eschew victory and declare before play begins this morning.

Atherton, who began positively against the opening bowlers Kabir and Sajid Shah, was out first ball after lunch. Having hooked with aplomb, he top-edged a short ball from Kashif Raza which ballooned to gully. When the day's play began, Darren Gough bowled plenty of bouncers, a ploy that brought him the wicket of Mohammad, who top-scored with 65.

Like Atherton, Vaughan also began well, though he succumbed after being being lured to his doom by some teasing flight from the left-arm spinner.

With spin set to play a major role in the Test series, the footwork of England's batsmen still has little to recommend it. When the best players of slow bowling use their feet they either hit the ball with intent, or kick it if they are not quite to the pitch. Vaughan's mistake was to try and block it, a decision that saw him stumped by Rashid Latif as the ball turned past the outside edge.

Selecting the right options is paramount to coping against the turning ball. If England do not start soon, this series could be over after the second Test.

Second day of four; England won toss

GOVERNOR'S XI - First Innings

(Overnight: 173 for 5)

Wajahatullah Wasti retired hurt 0 Yasir Hameed c Vaughan b Caddick 57 Mohammad Hussain c Caddick b Gough 65 Sajid Shah b Gough 5 Kabir Khan b White 11 Kashif Raza not out 2 Extras (lb2, nb8) 10

Total (72.5 overs) 224

Fall (cont): 6-179, 7-206, 8-211, 9-224.

Bowling: Gough 23-4-54-3; Caddick 17-2-51-2; White 11.5-2-46-2; Trescothick 2-0-8-0; Salisbury 9-1-30-0; Giles 10-4-33-2.

ENGLAND - First Innings

M A Atherton c sub b Kashif 22

M E Trescothick st Rashid b Mohammad 93 *N Hussain lbw b Kabir 15 M P Vaughan st Rashid b Mohammad 20 ÿA J Stewart c Rashid b Sajid 59 G P Thorpe not out 27 Extras (b1, lb1, nb3) 5

Total (for 5, 76.5 overs) 241

Fall: 1-35, 2-75, 3-112, 4-177, 5-241.

To Bat: C White, A F Giles, I D K Salisbury, A R Caddick, D Gough.

Bowling: Sajid 12.5-2-49-1; Kabir 17-4-47-1; Mohammad 24-7-49-2; Kashif 15-3-63-1; Imran 7-0-26-0; Naumanullah 1-0-5-0.

Umpires: Sajjad Asghar and Iqbal Butt.