Cricket: Hick quick to prosper

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The Independent Culture
Gloucestershire 390 & 50-1; Worcestershire 329-9 dec

GRAEME HICK'S 150 altered the shape of this game, which had been moving slowly Gloucestershire's way on Friday evening but now leaves them, in all probability, with a difficult declaration to make some time tomorrow.

When rain ended play at 5.45pm here, with 21.2 overs remaining, Gloucestershire were 111 ahead with nine wickets in hand, which was not a bad position but not nearly as good as the one they had been contemplating after Worcestershire had lost their first two wickets for 25 on Friday evening, when 241 to avoid the follow-on looked a daunting requirement.

But Hick, making a timely mark as the England selectors reached their conclusions on the composition of the Texaco Trophy team, enabled Worcestershire to take a tactical initiative and declare, nine wickets down, only 61 runs adrift of Gloucestershire's 390.

There was still a useful degree of bounce to be had from a slow, seaming pitch but Hick was rarely disturbed once he had found his timing.

Mike Smith's left-arm medium pace took a battering, as did Martyn Ball's offbreaks, as Hick passed 50 in 89 balls by lofting the spinner over midwicket for a six, to go with eight earlier fours.

During the next over bowled by the hapless Ball Hick hit three fours off the reel, the last soaring over the bowler's head. All this took place during a partnership with Gavin Haynes which added 61 in eight overs for the fourth wicket.

When Walsh returned for his second spell, near the end of a morning session that yielded 150 runs, Hick reached his century with a flourishing square cut for four, his 16th in a total of 20 plus two sixes. .

It was Hick's 49th championship century, his 73rd overall in first-class cricket, ending for him a decidedly lean spell. He had not, until this, made 100 in 24 first-class innings, taking in England's tour of the Caribbean.

With Stephen Rhodes giving solid support in a 133-run partnership for the fifth wicket, the follow-on figure had been passed when Hick top-edged a deserving Kevin Cooper to midwicket. The essential repair work had been done.