AS I write Alamgir Sheriyar has been responsible for 16 out of the last 23 wickets which Worcestershire have taken. This is a remarkable effort, not least in view of the stamina he has displayed in the process.

Latest technology employed by Manchester United records that David Beckham runs about 14 kms in an average match. On an idle afternoon in the field I once reckoned that a fielder would walk or run between 10 and 12 miles during a full day in the field.

If Sherry bowls 27 overs in a day, as on the first day at Edgbaston, then, allowing 30 metres for that galloping approach of his, I reckon that adds up to about 5 kms worth of sprinting - not a bad effort when you add in the fielding stint as well.

At his best, Sherry is a distinctly awkward proposition; genuinely quick and with the priceless ability to swing the ball into the right hander; at his worst the ball seems to race to the boundary as quickly as he himself rushes into the wicket. He is all or nothing, seldom anything in between, and for this reason it is vital that he has someone capable of exerting control at the other end to complement his efforts. Like most strike bowlers, he wants to be the main man. For as long as he continues to perform, as at present, he deserves to be treated as such.

His recent successes have come after a difficult start and it's a lesson that others will have to go through to make Worcestershire's current travails something from which they can benefit.

I remember an early game at Canterbury and being disappointed that we were happy to play for a draw from a seemingly strong position. I'd been away for the first half of the season though and I think I can understand now what Phil Neale was feeling about the importance of not losing. Realising that you can hang on in there both as an individual and as a team is part of the process of building experience and self-belief; developing a confidence that you do belong in the company of those you are playing with and against.

In this respect having to play a lot of inexperienced players together is unfortunate. Opposition teams are undaunted and play with that much more confidence. They swagger and bully, confident in their collective experience. Conversely, inexperience and bad form can be infectious. The natural confidence of youth gives way to timidity.

So you need some strong individuals around to lift the side and they don't come much stronger or more cussed than Richard Illingworth. My mum always used to say that he should open the batting and I used to suggest that she didn't know very much about it. Well now, I wonder!

You could say that, as night-watchman, he frequently does open. He certainly relishes the role in a way few others do. With his trademark flat-batted swats through the offside and neat deflections of his legs, he's an extremely effective player and, though wickets have been in short supply in this damp spring, his runs have given substance to some frail batting performances. They also show a spirit that we all hope will inspire others.

Monday, May 23, 1999.