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banner Monday, 3 July, 2000, 11:24 GMT 12:24 UK
What a difference a year makes
Nasser Hussain and Alec Stewart
A loyal lieutenant: Stewart (right) with Nasser Hussain
In official circles, Alec Stewart continues to play the dutiful stand-in for Nasser Hussain as England captain, seemingly more than happy to return to the rank and file when Hussain returns from injury.

Privately, however, Stewart must be dreaming of what might have been.

It was under Stewart's captaincy that England, after 11 largely barren years under Graham Gooch and Michael Atherton, last won a five-Test series when South Africa were beaten 2-1 in 1998.

Encouraged by their form on home soil, England went into the World Cup last year dreaming of glory only to be sent tumbling at the very first hurdle.

Alec Stewart
The darkest day: England go out of the 1999 World Cup
Someone had to pay the price and Stewart was duly stripped of the captaincy.

So when Stewart is named as stand-in captain for at least the first part of the triangular tournament, as surely he will with Hussain's finger injury not having healed fully, the circle will be complete.

He will have regained, albeit temporarily, the position that ultimately cost him his job in Test cricket, captain of the one-day side.

Would Hussain have been able to motivate his bowlers to recover as England's did when the Windies were bundled out for 54? It is an impossible question to answer but a valid one all the same.

"We were up against it," is how Stewart remembers that second evening.

"We batted poorly, not forgetting the quality of their strike bowlers. All we said before we went out to bowl was that there were two ways of going: we could lie down and die and me and Athers could bowl leaving us to chase 600, which we wouldn't get. We would be 2-0 down in the series from which point we wouldn't come back.

Controlled aggression

"Or we could go out, fight and show a lot of controlled aggression and take them on.

"Andrew Caddick obviously led from the front. He bowled exceptionally well after three indifferent bowling performances where he didn't have his rhythm right and he bounced back to show what a world class performer he is. And again the two big lads, Cork and Gough responded as you would expect them to."

Would Hussain have taken the bold decision of bowling first having won the toss?

England v West Indies, Lord's 2000
Watching the celebrations as England triumph at Lord's
Certainly, there are few draws when Stewart is in charge - in 14 Tests, four have been won by England, seven lost and three drawn.

None, though, compares to Lord's for pure drama.

"We had two very tight games in Trinidad four years ago, where we won one and lost one, and then draw against South Africa two years ago, but this game was swings and roundabouts.

"They were winning and then we were fighting back. And then they were looking like winning it and finally Corky and Goughy took us over the line."

Of course Stewart cannot claim sole responsibility for motivating his troops. Hussain, though injured, was on the balcony throughout England's run-chase on Saturday and ready to offer advice.

So what can a batsman be told in such circumstances?

Shot selection

"People have to play their way," said Stewart. "There is no point in playing how you think you should play in Test cricket. You have to make your own shot selection. As long as you do that you give yourself a chance.

"The only thing that we said was that when three lights came up we wanted to stay out there. Walsh had just bowled a long spell, Ambrose had bowled a number of overs in the day and we didn┐t want them to come off, have a rest and come back bowling in tandem.

"Vaughan and Atherton's partnership at the start of the day was vital. I thought Ambrose and Walsh were outstanding in their opening spell. But they stuck to their task and got two forties which were instrumental in us creeping over the line."

Alec Stewart
A century against Zimbabwe
At last something to smile about at Lord's then. England's victories over Zimbabwe and West Indies have now redressed the balance somewhat on what recently has been England's least successful Test venue.

The record since 1980 now reads: P30, W8, L12, D11.

Even the Lord's crowd, often criticised in the past for not getting behind England, were as loud as anyone could remember.

"I have always said that Edgbaston is my favourite ground in terms of crowd support, which is probably where some of best results have coincided in the past, although obviously not this year," said Stewart.

"But at Lord's I thought they were outstanding. It does make a difference. You go out there and play and at times you are not aware of what is going on in the surrounds, but I thought they carried us through very, very well.

"I wasn't too sure about that reggae band on the first day, though."

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See also:

29 Jun 00 | Cricket
Stewart back in the hot seat
31 May 00 | Cricket
Stewart offers friendly word
22 Jan 00 | England on Tour
Stewart stumped by Hussain
10 Aug 98 | Cricket
Stewart savours series triumph
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