Cricket: Mean Moody can be magnificent: A forgotten all-rounder could tower over tomorrow's Benson and Hedges Cup final at Lord's. Jon Culley reports

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The Independent Online
MOST cricketers agree that the principle of having a second string to your bow is essentially sound. Who can be sure, after all, that a weakness hitherto hidden might not suddenly become common knowledge to every opposing bowler?

In some players, however, it would appear to be unnecessary. Tom Moody, for example. During 1990 and 1991, when he was rewriting batting records for Warwickshire and then Worcestershire, the idea that a man who appeared to have located a bottomless well of runs wanted to work on his bowling might have seemed faintly ridiculous.

But as a young cricketer in Australia in a highly competitive environment, Moody always embraced the logic that the more things you can do, the more chance you have of succeeding. He still believes it, as Worcestershire have discovered this summer, to their benefit.

When Worcestershire won the Benson and Hedges Cup in 1991, it was largely down to Moody's extraordinary form with the bat. Although the final was a personal disappointment - he made 12 - his aggregate in seven innings of 382 runs, including two centuries, was a county record for the competition. His total of 1,378 in all limited-overs cricket was the highest by anyone in an English season, which, added to his first-class record, gave him a staggering all-cricket aggregate of 3,274.

But if Worcestershire triumph in this year's final against Warwickshire at Lord's tomorrow, they may well reflect with gratitude on how wise Moody was in seeking to keep his arm fluent during those bountiful times. His talent for scoring runs is scarcely diminished; but now Moody is Worcestershire's meanest one-day bowler too.

Having made some progress, in part fortuitously, in a long struggle against back problems, Moody is able to contribute fully as a one-day all-rounder for the first time. In fact, Worcestershire open their attack with him. The results have been excellent: 10 wickets for 132 from 47 Sunday League overs, four for 53 from 33 in the Benson and Hedges.

Maintaining metronomic accuracy and using his 6 ft 6 1/2 in height to swing the ball in at a trajectory most batsmen struggle to pick up, he has often bowled his allocation straight through, causing untold frustration to opponents anxious for a brisk start. His 3 for 14 against Derbyshire in the quarter-final precipitated a collapse by the holders to 98 all out but his semi-final analysis of 1 for 17 was perhaps more impressive still, given that Hampshire went on to make 244 for 6. Making 56 with the bat as Worcestershire won by three wickets, Moody would surely have collected his sixth Gold Award in 15 Benson and Hedges games for the county but for Gavin Haynes's match-winning 65.

'Although primarily a batter,' Moody said 'I've always worked on my bowling because I believe it gives you that extra dimension.

'But I haven't bowled much in previous years here because of my back trouble. There was a period a couple of years ago when I had stress fractures and I did no bowling at all for 18 months. But it is fine now, although I have to be careful.'

There is an irony attached to Moody's recovery. At the end of the 1992 season, after two years at New Road following his move from Warwickshire, he declined another summer in the hope that he would return with the touring Australians instead. In the event he was left at home.

'I had only myself to blame. I knew that I would need to have a good season at home with the strength of batters around in Australia at present. But to be honest I had only an average year so I was never really in contention.

'It was a disappointment because it had been high on my list of objectives. But on the other side of the coin I did need a rest, so maybe it was a blessing in disguise.'

Perhaps surprisingly, the 28-year-old right hander has won only eight Test caps, and none since 1992.

Tomorrow's match will be projected in some quarters as Moody's chance to put one over the county that showed him the door. But he insists no animosity exists, his departure from Edgbaston in 1990 inevitable, in spite of 866 runs in 12 Championship innings, because of Warwickshire's commitment to Allan Donald.

'Playing against Warwickshire is probably more important to the other guys, because both teams are from the heart of the Midlands,' he said. 'To me it is the fact that it is a final at Lord's that makes it special. The opposition makes no difference.'

(Photograph omitted)