A whirlwind double century from Graeme Hick, off 181 balls, reminded India that rumours of England's demise as a world cricket power may have been grossly exaggerated.The leg spinners Anil Kumble and Narendra Hirwani, the fulcrum of India's attack on this tour, were put to the slaughter. They have conceded 237 runs off 52 overs.
For the first time in seven years, New Road escaped the usual winter flood. The square has rolled out flat with little pace, the outfield is as swift as in August; in other words, the perfect setting for a major assault by Hick.
With the England coach, David Lloyd, overcoated but beaming in the cold wind, watching, Hick hit his 10th double century and put India's tactical planning in a twist.
Hick joined Phil Weston after Tim Curtis had been well caught, low at second slip, in the 20th over. By lunch, 21 overs later, he had scored 80, including 17 off four balls in Hirwani's third over, and might have reached his century before lunch had not Kumble managed to apply the brake. Hick was murderous on anything short, and any straight half-volley was risking a six.
By the 52nd over he had reached his century (101 balls), out of 152 at the wicket, Kumble being lifted over midwicket for successive fours. After 61 overs he was past 150 (130 balls), and then celebrated by blasting Hirwani for 27 in one over: 6-6-6-4-4 and a single off the last ball when he might have been caught low on the third man boundary by Venkat Prasad.
Worcestershire's second-wicket record - 287 by Curtis and Hick against Glamorgan in 1986 - was swept aside. Just before he reached his eighth double century for the county, Hick became momentarily almost as hesitant as Weston, 100 runs behind him.
After tea Weston, who had spent 25 balls moving from 97 to 98, mistimed a drive and was leg before. In the next over, after Tom Moody indicated he was batting on, Hick went to pull Prasad and skied gently to midwicket. The final statistics: six sixes, 30 fours, 195 balls for 215 runs.
The stand, worth 300, took only 61 overs. This was Hick's 86th score of 100 or more. His critics will say that he was facing no one who could get the ball above waist high; he could reply that Bradman made runs on a lot of flat pitches, too.
Only once before has a Worcestershire player scored a double century against a touring side: Harold "Doc" Gibbons hit an unbeaten 200 against the 1928 West Indians on this ground.
A pleased Lloyd said: "I'm delighted to see England players, who took a lot of stick on the winter, looking so perky and ready to return." Hick added: "There wasn't much there for the bowlers, a little turn and the ball swung a fraction as it got older. The atmosphere will be totally different in the international matches but I was pleased to get the opportunity to have a good look at their bowling.
"Don't read too much into this; it's practice for them, too. What is nice is to see England players who have taken a lot of criticism get the bit between their teeth," Lloyd added.
The Indians will be praying that the Test pitches give their spinners a little more purchase. Kumble, Hirwani and the slow left-hander Venkatapathy Raju seem certain to be selected. The only front-line bowler missing yesterday was Javagal Srinath.
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