LOOKING back on Worcestershire's four-day match with Leicestershire, it was a wonderful effort to save the game, batting through four sessions to do so with Phil Weston making a fine 157.

It does raise the question, though, of the County's apparent inability to post a challenging first innings score.

Other than the Cheltenham fixture versus Gloucestershire, first innings runs have been in precious short supply.

Fresh bowlers and fresh pitches are partly to blame, but first innings provide a problem of their own for a nervious team, just as a debutant feels individual pressure on a first outing.

An innings can seem like a blank canvas with no set patterns to follow, each batsman looking to make his mark without being fully confident of what to expect, how fast to score or what is par for this particular pitch.

Uncertainty is always a batsman's enemy and apparently foolish dismissals are often the result, and sadly, it's catching!

Each batsman's failing only increases the uncertainty of those following.

The runs are starting to flow, through, now and first innings scores will be even more vital if games are to be played and won on the sort of dry, spinning pitch prepared for the Leicestershire re game.

It will make it harder work for Alamgir Sheriyar to reach 100 wickets, but his selection for the First Class Counties XI is acknowledgement of the huge progress which he has made.

The same could be said for Vikram Solanki and it is pleasing, as well as vital for his further progress, that he is bowling more regularly.

Worcestershire are not the only team suffering from first innings stage fright. England continue to struggle.

The favourable conditions in which England batted out the first Test were balanced by the first day swing at Lord's.

Throughout, though, England's only authority has come from a carefree tailender.

As I commented earlier this year for as long as England seek improvement through the quick fix of a change in personnel, they are simply going to prolong the neurotic approach which has characterised and undermined our cricket for so long.

The selectors' job is to identify and select class and to stick with it.

If they are proved wrong, then they should go, along with the players, but only after a period of years not the seemingly regulation two-match trial which we offer our aspiring Test players.

Monday, August 2, 1999.