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Wednesday, 11 July, 2001, 16:16 GMT 17:16 UK
Stewart the Lionheart
BBC Sport Online profiles Alec Stewart after he is cleared of any wrongdoing by Sir Paul Condon's Anti-corruption Unit.
Alec Stewart is the self-styled sergeant major of the England cricket team.
With his regimented fitness regime, "up-and-at-'em" attitude and constant exhortations to colleagues, he is the archetypal team man.
For more than a decade he has played a vital role in the national side - variously as captain, flamboyant opening batsman and reliable wicketkeeper.
While the England team struggled to keep up with the major Test-playing nations in the 1990s, Stewart was enjoying conspicuous individual success.
He is a player who always wears his heart on his sleeve when he comes onto the field of play for his country.
On the pitch the Surrey man rallies the troops by talking to them constantly during play and has excelled for his country is with both bat and gloves.
Stewart is one of the few players in world cricket who can claim to be at the top of his game in both trades.
During his 19 years with Surrey, the flamboyant character has won the NatWest Trophy (1982), the Benson and Hedges one-day title (1997) and the Sunday League title (1996).
The 37-year-old's finest hour in a brown cap came when he helped his side end their 28-year county championship drought in 1999 and helped them defend it last season.
His Test career has had its ups and downs. But undoubtedly Stewart's highlight for England was on the field in Barbados (1993/4) when he became the first Englishman to score centuries in both innings against the West Indies.
Stewart's 118 and 143 at Bridgetown in the face of some fierce fast bowling helped to secure victory over the home team by 208 runs.
They were characteristically attractive knocks from one of the most aggressive batsmen of his generation - and they did much to secure his place among the affections of the cricketing world.
As Windies legend Clive Lloyd told BBC Sport Online: "Alec Stewart left a impressive mark on the West Indian cricket public when he scored those two hundreds.
"The Caribbean public love a batsmen who can play his shots even in the most adverse of circumstances - and Stewart is one player who can excite crowds with his strokeplay."
Stewart was Test cricket's leading scorer during the 1990s, and has now totalled 7256 runs for England, with an average of 39.43.
He has also, of course, claimed more than his fair share of scalps as wicketkeeper, with 208 catches and 11 stumpings to date.
Despite his big-scoring successes of the 1990s - when along with Mike Atherton he struggled to hold a fragile England batting line-up together - there were widespread calls for Stewart to be dropped from the Test side before the 1999 tour of South Africa.
But after retaining his place he responded in typically bullish fashion.
First he played a starring role for the tourists against Hansie Cronje's men and then he produced an inspired display last summer to help England to their first series victory over West Indies since 1969.
The highlight of Stewart's series - and possibly his whole career - came at Old Trafford in August when he became only the fourth player in history to score a century during their 100th Test appearance.
It was fitting that he and Atherton should celebrate reaching the 100-cap milestone together.
And the reception given to Stewart by the Manchester crowd when he reached his ton in the first innings was one of the most rousing ever seen at an English Test ground.
"Getting your first cap is a huge achievement and I remember mine, in Jamaica in 1990, as though it was yesterday," he said.
"But if someone told you that you were going to play 100 Test matches, you would probably have bit their hand off."
Stewart had taken over as skipper from Atherton for the 1998 home Test series against South Africa.
And he achieved instant success, securing a 2-1 victory, to at last give a beleaguered England a series success over a major Test side.
If hopes were high that he was the man to lead the English revival, they proved to be way off the mark.
After the South African win, England struggled under Stewart's leadership.
A sixth successive Ashes defeat in Australia was followed by the debacle of the World Cup last year, when England failed to progress past the group stages despite enjoying home advantage.
With the stench of failure again lingering around the England team, the selectors reacted in ruthless fashion and Stewart was replaced as skipper by Nasser Hussain.
At that stage, in the summer of 1999, Stewart's career looked to be virtually over.
But the fact that he fought his way back to the top of the game and remains one of England's key players is testament both to his battling qualities as an individual and his sumptuous skills as a batsman.
They too were in evidence as he fought on despite the allegations that he took money for information looming over him for nine months.
Now cleared, he is free to bring down the curtain on a memorable, successful and, as importantly, unblemished career.
30 Oct 00 | England on Tour
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