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The Definitive: Alec Stewart

by Wisden Staff

The unflappable Gaffer, Alec Stewart, runs Sam Stow through the major moments of his distinguished career.

THE SNUB
Not getting picked for England Schools under 15s | 1978

I played for South of England, but I didn’t get selected for the England Schools side, although I should have been – I was one of the leading run-scorers at the time… not that I’m bitter! Looking back it was probably a turning point, something that spurred me on. I guess I almost thought: ‘I’ll show you’. I worked harder and pushed myself as much as I could.

THE FIRST-TEAM DEBUT
2 & 8 | Gloucestershire v Surrey, County Championship, Cheltenham, 1981

Jack Richards [Surrey’s first-choice wicketkeeper] was out with an injured finger, so I came in and kept wicket. I’d done well for the 2nd XI and scored a hundred in a university game. You’ll have to check, but I think I got 8 and 12 or 4 and 16 [2 and 8, dismissed twice by David Graveney] batting at No.9. I was pretty nervous. It’s like anything; when you’re starting a new job or whatever, you’re going into the unknown. You want to do something and look forward to getting your chance, but before you actually perform you’ll always question whether you’re good enough.

THE SECOND-TEAM CENTURY
154 | Surrey Second XI v Kent Second XI, Second XI Championship, The Oval, 1982

I was a reasonably heavy scorer in the 2nd XI, but this knock stands out because it was against an attack featuring [West Indian Test allrounder] Eldine Baptiste. In those days you’d get decent players in 2nd XI cricket, and getting runs in that match felt like another bit of progress.

THE ENGLAND CALL
13 & 0* | West Indies v England, First Test, Jamaica, 1990

I’d had a whiff of an England call-up for the 1986/87 Ashes tour, but the selectors went for James Whittaker instead in the end, so I had to wait a little bit longer. The Windies bowling was Patrick Patterson, Malcolm Marshall, Courtney Walsh and Ian Bishop… so not a bad line-up! I gloved a rising delivery in the first innings and was there in the second innings when we won the game. What I most remember is how nervous I was waiting to go into bat. I’d dreamt of playing for England, literally, when I was a kid. Anyway, I hit my first ball in Test cricket for four [smacked through the covers] off Patterson, which wasn’t a bad start!

THE SETTLER
148 and 107 | New Zealand v England, Three-match Test series, 1992

The winter before, I’d made 80-odd then 90-odd in back-to-back games against Australia [79 in Melbourne; 91 in Sydney], but this was the series when I felt I really settled in to Test cricket. After this I knew I could play at the highest level. Up until then, I just thought I could. Of course, once you know you can do something you do it that much better.

THE TWIN TONS
118 & 143 | West Indies v England, Fourth Test, Barbados, 1994

The fact that we lost the series takes the gloss off this, but scoring two hundreds in a game is not something you do every day. Alongside Walsh and Ambrose were Kenny and Winston Benjamin, so it was a decent attack. And, of course, there are always a lot of England fans in Barbados, so it was a special win.

THE CATCH THAT WON THE MATCH
Brian Lara c Stewart b Gough 54 | England v West Indies, Second Test, Lord’s, 1995

This was the match that Corky [Dominic Cork] made his debut and took seven-fer in the second innings, but I’ll always remember that catch I took to dismiss Lara. It wasn’t just the quality of the catch – low to my left, in front of Athers at first slip – but it was the context. There’s every chance Lara would have won the game for them if we hadn’t got him out then, so that one makes me smile.

THE STUNNING SAVE
164 | England v South Africa, Third Test, Old Trafford, 1998

Again, this one’s as much about context as anything else. We only drew the game [last pair Robert Croft and Angus Fraser hung on resolutely to deny South Africa] but it kept us in the series and we won the last two matches to take the series. Having followed on so far behind [369 runs] it was a huge achievement and one that changed the series.

THE TRIANGULAR TRIUMPH
74, 101, 100*, 97 | England v West Indies & Zimbabwe, NatWest Series, 2000

I’d say my best run of form in one-day cricket would have been the second half of the triangular series with West Indies and Zimbabwe. It was Marcus Trescothick’s debut series for England and we opened together. I got a few low scores early on, but then I made 70-odd [74], two tons [101 and 100* in a total of 192] and 90-odd [97 in a total of 170] in the final. Some people are a bit sniffy about one-day cricket, but I’d never belittle it. Ninety-nine per cent of players would rather have a Test cap, but it’s still a chance to represent your country.

THE CENTURION
105 | England v West Indies, Third Test, Old Trafford, 2000

It was a nice occasion for me, and Michael Atherton, of course [the match was both players’ 100th Test], but as soon as we got going it was just another game. Once the build-up was over, I was just there to try and win the match. What I do remember, however, was the ovation I got when I reached my hundred. It was the best I had ever received and, if I’m honest, the best I’ve ever witnessed! I thought someone must have run on the pitch or they were applauding someone else – it seemed like it was never going to stop!

Follow @SamStowAOC

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