Cricket: Centuries roll on for Hick

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Surrey 502-7 dec Worcestershire 366-9

THE first hundred centuries are obviously the hardest, after that the rest just follow, or at least that is how it would seem after Graeme Hick reached the 101st of his career and his fourth on the trot as he did his utmost to foil Surrey's push to enforce the follow-on.

That the championship leaders were thwarted in that quest owed just as much though to last-wicket pair Richard Illingworth and Alamgir Sheriyar, who somehow scraped together 37 runs which was more than enough to save the day.

However, Hick had done all the real graft. It is difficult to know whether to laugh or cry when he is grinding his way to another statistical landmark. There was a crushing inevitability about yesterday's six-hour effort, although without it Worcestershire would have been minus paddle and canoe up the proverbial creek.

There was some absorbing cricket throughout as the Surrey captain, Adam Hollioake, employed his spinners Ian Salisbury (50 overs) and Saqlain Mushtaq (60 overs) for the bulk of the day. They were impressively miserly, going for barely two an over and picking up wickets along the way.

Hick, though made life difficult for them. It took Surrey 297 attempts to get him out, the final delivery of his mammoth stint - bowled by Martin Bicknell - being chopped on to his wicket. It was his sixth century against Surrey, more than any other current player has managed and for the record he is the 36th player to achieve the feat of four successive hundreds, the last to do so in England was Brian Lara in 1994. Worcestershire coach Bill Athey did it in 1987 in a previous incarnation with Gloucestershire.

What Worcestershire had needed was someone to stick with Hick, but it was not until the sixth wicket fell, when Steve Rhodes was mesmerised by the Saqlain delivery which turned the other way and bowled him, that they got their man. Stuart Lampitt (43) came out and hung around for 49 overs in a partnership of 115. When they were eventually dismissed the momentum was maintained by Illingworth (45 not out) and Sheriyar (11 not out).