Cricket: Hick in comfort zone

Sussex 124 & 225-9 Worcestershire 301-9 Match drawn
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The Independent Online
THE RAIN yesterday was well flagged, the Sussex bowling, initially, well flogged. And where there is a flogging, there invariably can be found the County Championship's Lord High Executioner, Graeme Hick, wielding the bat, or rod depending on your standpoint.

Hick, the ultimate batting enigma, never looked less than a certainty to pass three figures for the 105th time in his first-class career. He has done it all at this level, so much so that the T-shirt has holes in it and the video is a Betamax. Sussex have suffered under the bludgeoning weight of his bat on eight occasions, none more cruel than yesterday, though, when victory beckoned until the rains came.

The only aspect of Hick's magnificent hundred worthy of statistical note was that it was the first one he had scored on this ground, but that can be explained by the fact that it was Worcestershire's first visit here in Hick's time with the county.

The man's record is awesome in the Championship, yet he is found wanting so often when he climbs a couple of rungs up the ladder. His 13 Test innings since the start of 1998 produced a mere 321 runs at a shade over 24 per outing. Only last week, when a nation cried out for World Cup heroics from the man, he lasted one ball against India in England's darkest hour.

It is not as if he cannot get going when the going gets tough. Worcestershire were odds on for a heavy defeat when they resumed yesterday needing 84 runs to make Sussex bat again. That was as tough as it needed to get to test the mettle of any man. Hick was not found wanting, as his shot through cover of the last ball of the opening over of the day revealed.

That was off Jason Lewry, back in action after recovering from a shoulder injury originally suffered last August and aggravated when the left-arm paceman toured with England A in February. Half a dozen wickets first time round was not on the menu when the visitors followed on 177 runs adrift. But his nine wickets in the match was still an admirable effort.

The nearest Sussex came to a wicket when play finally got under way 10 overs late was when the unfortunate Richard Montgomerie put down a straightforward slip catch with David Leatherdale still gingerly feeling his way into a fifth-wicket partnership eventually worth 73 runs with Hick.

Leatherdale fell to a beauty from James Kirtley immediately after lunch, playing back when he should have gone forward to a ball which kept low and nipped back. Hick motored on. Rhodes dropped anchor for an 80-run stand, content to watch the master craftsman at work.

A brilliant catch by Montgomerie, still at slip, plucking an edged hook out of the left field, ended Hick's otherwise chanceless knock. The rapid dismissals of Stuart Lampitt, Richard Illingworth and Phil Newport looked promising but the heavens opened and the door closed on Sussex hopes.

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