Cricket: Hancock back for hit parade

Gloucestershire 401-5 v Essex
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The Independent Online
THERE IS one T Hancock whom Essex do not find in the least amusing.

Gloucestershire's Tim is a far different proposition from the late comedian, Tony. For a start he was entertaining a large crowd at Castle Park for almost four hours. But what gets up Essex's pinny is the fact that he is beginning to make it a habit of piling up career-best scores against the County Championship's bottom club.

The first time was in 1994 when he made 123 at Chelmsford, but yesterday's innings improved on that by a dozen runs and will have given the Berkshire- born batsman far more satisfaction, coming as it did just when fourth- placed Gloucestershire are attempting to step up the pressure on the leaders, Surrey, and the rest of the chasing pack.

It was also the 26-year-old's opening first-class hundred of the season after he had passed 50 on five previous occasions without being able to turn them into the all-important ton - the most recent came in his previous innings against Kent in the last match - but significantly for Gloucestershire four of those five half-centuries have come in matches that have ended in victory.

This, the fifth hundred of his first-class career, was a no-nonsense affair, competent and assured. He punctuated some thoughtful batting with some exhilarating shots to the boundary. Very few areas escaped his searing drives and savage cuts which brought him 21 fours in all.

There was one brief flicker of a chance, a difficult one at short leg when he was on 85, but overall it was an impeccable knock, and once he had reached the sanctuary of three figures he allowed himself the luxury of a straight-driven six off Peter Such's off-spin.

Shortly after bringing up the 100 partnership (his second of the innings) with his captain, Mark Alleyne, who continued his good form with a sound 47, Hancock perished. He attempted a pull shot but only succeeded in presenting the bowler Danny Law with a simple return catch, a tame end to his 211- ball innings.

Hancock had previously shared in a second-wicket stand of 123 with the promising Dominic Hewson, before, in the second over after lunch, the latter hung out his bat to give Jamie Grove his second wicket, caught behind.

Grove's first wicket had come some two hours earlier when Rob Cunliffe pushed forward too tentatively and the wicketkeeper, Barry Hyam, snapped up the resulting edge.

Matt Windows took up the cudgels late in the afternoon with a superb collection of shots as he passed 50 for the fifth time this season. He also shared in a century stand, the third of the innings, putting on 124 with Bobby Dawson (46). That ensured Gloucestershire gleaned maximum batting bonus points for only the second time this season.