SPORT is full of "ifs" and "buts," none more so than cricket. "If only he'd caught that catch" - "but for that dodgy decision."

It's a dangerous thing to indulge in, though, because it leads all too easily to feeling sorry for oneself.

It's too easy to forget that the other side has its own "ifs" and "buts" as well.

Nevertheless, I found myself indulging heavily after last week's defeat against Kent.

No doubt there were certain members of the Worcestershire dressing room doing the same.

A lot of things balance out in a game of cricket; run outs don't tend to conform to that balancing rule though, nor last wicket partnerships.

So Kent's 100-run last wicket partnership and Graeme Hick's run out on 99 were the decisive "if" and "but" and all Steve Rhodes's valiant efforts on the last morning added up to nothing more than the four bowling points garnered on that first morning.

Events at Cheltenham have put me in a rather better frame of mind.

The irony of doubling the total of batting points in one innings will have been lost on nobody. Nor, perhaps, the fact that Worcester were themselves inserted on losing the toss before making 591, much as they had suffered on inserting opponents earlier in the season

I wonder whether, for the first time this season, they have come across a good first day pitch?

I played only one first-class match at Cheltenham but it was one of the best two cricket pitches I played on.

Unusually for this country the ball bounced and carried for seamer and spinner alike.

Errors of judgement are therefore punished, rather than nicks dying on their way to the slips and the batsman can stand tall and hit through the line of the ball.

All this against the majestic backdrop of the College. The square used for the county festival is used only for that occasion.

Perhaps it is this which maintains its freshness and life? It is a great venue for cricket. I am delighted that Phil Weston has got his season going; Hicky's hundreds suffer from being commonplace; Vikram's are still something of a novelty but he is starting to contribute a real weight of runs and, like Graeme, he scores at such a rate that the bowlers are granted plenty of time to bowl the opposition out.

Now thoughts turn forwards to the first day-night match at New Road. No setting could be more spectacular.

The sight of the floodlit cathedral makes one wonder how it could have ever been left in the dark.

Spectators tomorrow will have a wonderful view both of the cathedral and some great cricket.

We won't complain that the start of the second Test match will deprive us of the chance to see Mullally and Habib. A win is rather more important!

Monday, July 19, 1999.