THE World Cup is over - and what a debt we owe to Australia and South Africa for their two matches this last week. It was pure cricketing theatre.

They lit up the competition and at the heart of the action, Worcestershire's captain, Tom Moody.

At Headingley he faced the white-knuckle ride of one day cricket's end-game; a World Cup semi-final place at stake and the knowledge that he would be held responsible if they failed.

Steve Waugh had won the game for Australia: Tom could only lose it.

It's a situation which does not occur in every sportsman's life, but when it does - a penalty shoot-out for example - the enormity of the consequences can be devastating.

Tom came through that one. He handled the pressure and hung on in there until the pendulum swung Australia's way the final, decisive time.

Edgbaston then produced, in his own words, the "rusty gate," cricket's all too predictable knock-back as he made 0 and was carted around.

This time, though, the drama featured Lance Klusener, a man whose ability to strike a cricket ball has reached legendary status during this World Cup.

Here was a man who did not fail. In the most pressurised, high risk situation the game can offer, he repeatedly came through, smiting all bowling with irresistible power and accuracy.

And here he was doing it again, taking South Africa to their first World Cup final.

But at the very moment when it seemed that someone was defying cricket's unpredictability, knocking the "rusty gate" off its hinges, it slammed shut right in his face.

A simple error, with the game already won and all was lost. Klusener was human, the hero had a tragic flaw and cricket had survived, its reputation for being above any individual intact.

Tom will find it difficult to come back to the mundanities of county cricket, but he will find Worcestershire battling on, driven by familiar faces in the lower order.

The Championship game with Somerset was was a good one to win.

Top order frailties on both sides distorted the equation, though a doubling of Worcestershire's batting bonus points was something of a cause for celebration.

Reuben Spiring is finding himself in the unfamiliar role of opening the innings and, along with Paul Pollard, not having the best of times.

It can be a thankless task opening, I should know! Like the Aussies though you've just got to hang on in there. Things do get better.

The win over Somerset took Worcestershire off the bottom of the table and made them look a healthier option for aspiring overseas players.

Monday, June 21,1999.