Cricket: Hick happy to engage his better half

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The Independent Online
Nottinghamshire 400-8 dec

Worcestershire 318-6 dec

CRICKET (albeit on higher-profile occasions than the second day of a county match) suffers from the occasional outbreak of the football- style supporters' chant, but at least we are safe from an intoxicated (as opposed to intoxicating) rendering of 'there's only one Graeme Hick'. There are, quite clearly, two of them.

The first one turns out for teams like Worcestershire and New Zealand's Northern Districts, and plays like a god. The second one pulls on an England cap and plays like an anagram of a god. The England selectors presumably keep picking him on the basis that every dog must have his day.

This evening, Lord Ted and Co convene to pick a team for Headingley, and Hick's masterly 213 not out against Nottinghamshire yesterday was nothing if not timely. What the selectors have to worry about is whether Hick will finally show up, or whether that ham-fisted identical twin of his will turn up again instead.

Hick's record in first-class cricket is already a phenomenon. Only four players in history have a higher career average, and only one player betters his average of a century (this was his 65th) on every fifth visit to the crease. Not Boycott or Hobbs (every seventh) nor even Hutton (every sixth), but a pretty fair player by the name of Bradman (every third).

However, while Hick averages over 60 in first-class cricket, his average in 16 innings for England is 19. Of the 11 players on duty at Old Trafford, only one has a worse one - and the one obvious difference between Hick and Devon Malcolm is that (despite the furore it sparked off in the last Test) Malcolm gets hit on the helmet less often.

Before England came along to mess him up, there was only one Hick; yesterday's version. He rarely played himself in (his first ball, from Chris Lewis, went for four), never got nervous in the nineties (he went from 90 to 100 in three balls - six, dot, four - from John Afford), and (on one occasion failing to get nervous in the three hundred and nineties) was never satisfied with a mere hundred.

He would also make big scores when others found batting impossibly difficult, and while Hick was bludgeoning 213 at one end yesterday, his six partners contributed 88 from the other. In stands of 79 and 148 with Stuart Lampitt and Steve Rhodes, Hick made 52 and 105.

Of no less interest to the selectors than Hick's statistics (318 minutes, 275 balls, 24 fours, 4 sixes) will be those of Lewis. He bowled only 14 of 93 overs, limped off for treatment, and dropped Hick on 67.