Cricket: Abandoned Hick hits out

Worcs 332 & 335-7 dec Kent 320 & 30-0
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The Independent Online
EDDIE STANFORD will remember his maiden wicket in first-class cricket - if only because it saved him from impending carnage.

The Kent debutant found himself staring down the double- barrelled Duncan Fearnley shot-gun bat of Graeme Hick midway through a baking New Road morning. Twice in an over the blond 24-year-old slow left-armer craned backwards as the ball torpedoed over his head for straight sixes from the bat of the erstwhile England batsman.

Weaker-minded captains might have withdrawn their tyro at that point, but Steve Marsh urged Stanford back on his metaphorical bike. He was rewarded for his faith. Hick, playing with the abandon of an abandoned man, was a mite careless about length in Stanford's next over and thick-edged to backward point.

And thus ended the excitement for the day. In its stead Worcestershire placed careful accumulation before declaring with a 347 lead, trusting their spinners can conjure a sixth win in seven Championship matches on this dry and wearing pitch on Monday.

While six other batsmen reached 25, and most stayed longer than Hick, none of them exceeded his 64. Having been deemed not good enough for Test cricket, he performed here as if he found county cricket too easy. He was in to the second ball of the day after the nightwatchman Stuart Lampitt dollied up the first to point. Hick hit his second ball for two and his third and fourth through the covers for fours to reach double figures. He lashed Martin McCague behind square and through mid-on for further boundaries to bring up the 50 in the 13th over of the innings, and was racing towards a century before lunch after blazing 16 off that Stanford over. In all, 48 of his runs (from 63 balls) came in boundaries before his apparent disdain for the opposition was his undoing.

But this was cricket at a gentler pace than the trench warfare of Old Trafford. Young Stanford - playing in place of the injured Min Patel - sent down 31 successive overs in a four-hour spell interrupted only by lunch, bowling tidily with a nice loop and occasionally turning the ball sharply. But the Kent attack erred on the side of friendliness, allowing Worcestershire to construct five half-century partnerships.