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Last Updated: Tuesday, 2 September, 2003, 10:37 GMT 11:37 UK
Stewart calls time at the top
Alec Stewart
Stewart is to retire after 13 years with England
Alec Stewart will this weekend finish his international career as England's most-capped Test cricketer ever.

But long before he passed Graeme Gooch, making his 119th appearance at the beginning of last year, the calls had begun for him to make way for a younger man.

Coached by his father, former Surrey captain and England Test batsman Micky, the younger Stewart made his debut for Surrey at the age of 18.

Though a prolific run-maker in the County Championship - he scored 1,000 runs a season for five consecutive years - he was passed over for England selection throughout the 1980s.

Stewart's first foray onto the Test stage - which he considers his most nervous moment in international cricket - came at the age of 26 in Jamaica in 1990.

Cynics believed he only made the England team because his father was its coach, a claim he has long since refuted.

Thirteen years later, Stewart is ready to make his 133rd Test appearance against South Africa at The Oval - and is second on the country's all-time list of Test run-scorers.

MOST ENGLAND TEST CAPS
An Ashes victory has eluded Stewart in seven series against Australia
AJ Stewart 133 (inc 5th Test v SA)
GA Gooch 118
DI Gower 117
MA Atherton 115
MC Cowdrey 114
G Boycott 108
IT Botham 102
In 1991, due to his superior skill as a batsman, Stewart took over as wicket-keeper from Jack Russell, and he has continually had to deal with a dual role ever since.

His pairing with Michael Atherton became the definitive opening partnership of the 1990s, a decade when he was the world's leading Test run-scorer.

But there have been low points both on and off the field.

In November 2000, with the cricket world rocked by allegations of match-fixing, an Indian bookmaker alleged that he had paid Stewart for supplying him with information.

Stewart, who strenuously denied the charge, had to wait a considerable time before the International Cricket Council cleared him of any wrongdoing.

He was relieved of the England captaincy after failing to take the hosts past the first round of the 1999 World Cup.

And after seven series, he has yet to be on an Ashes-winning side.

Stewart is unique at the crease: forever twitching, fidgeting and blinking in an arcane set of rituals and mannerisms familiar to spectators from Manchester to Melbourne.

Alec Stewart
Stewart was forced to fight his corner against charges of corruption
And, from behind the stumps, his frequent exhortations to England bowlers are well-known.

Supremely professional on and off the field, his fitness has not waned even though he celebrated his 40th birthday earlier this year.

Stewart gave the first hint of an impending retirement when he asked the selectors to choose a younger wicket-keeper in the one-day side.

And he announced at the beginning of July that he would retire at the end of the summer, surviving calls for his immediate replacement since then.

The selectors have remained loyal, though, giving their most loyal; servant a chance to bid fairwell to a packed house at his home ground.





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