THE toss of the coin seems likely to be an early season theme this year.

Losing it in Durham was clearly a disadvantage. Winning it against Surrey made the gaining of bonus points much easier in the time available. Winning it at Trent Bridge didn't do us any favours.

The old wisdom used to be that, when you won the toss, nine times out of ten you batted first and the tenth time you thought about it and then decided to bat first.

I was never a great fan of that way of thinking. If there was something in the pitch first up I wanted to take advantage of it.

Our pitches at Worcester, particularly, did not deteriorate appreciably and the old wisdom derived, of course, from a time of uncovered pitches. When we finished second in the championship in 1993, seven out of eight matches were won bowling first, though not always by choice, I hasten to add.

So I sympathise with Steve Rhodes' decision to bowl first against Nottinghamshire. A game of cricket basically comes down to how well you bowl and how well you bat whichever order you do them in. We followers will have to both expect and accept such performances as the seam attack strives for experience and penetration.

Alamgir Sheriyar finds himself in a difficult situation, leading a young attack, desperately wanting to bowl fast and give his all. Bowling first on winning the toss adds to this weight of responsibility and expectation. If things don't go well the game can soon run away from you. Paul Johnson ensured that his was the case at Trent Bridge.

Still, 'Sherry' will have enjoyed his three quick wickets on the second morning.

Cricket's like that -- up one day, down the next. Ask Philip Weston. Two successive noughts, the second a dubious decision at the end of a meaningless day, had stalled his season on the grid.

Eight overs into the first one day game of the season and he hadn't added to his account, but 35 overs later he had a magnificent 125 to his name, a maiden century in one day cricket and the tower around which Worcestershire built their intimidating and winning total against rivals Warwickshire.

We talk of the rusty gate which guarantees failure after success. What the sportsman also has to believe in, though not depend upon, is the success which comes after failure just as certainly.

I was delighted for 'Wes.' He gives himself a real hard time when things don't go well, but he is a superb player and striker of the ball when he takes the brakes off.

This start to the one day season, both for him and Paul Pollard, is something very positive on which to build.

The whole performance against Warwickshire was wonderfully heartening. The "Royals" did indeed play up to their name.

Monday, May 4, 1999.