Cricket: Hick stalls in top gear

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The Independent Online
CAMERON CUFFY flew into London yesterday. A fast-bowling replicant from the Ambrose mould - except for the fact that he arrived on schedule. Surrey's replacement this summer for Waqar Younis, he came along to The Oval for a short time and then went off in search of a long bed. And if he was confused by what he saw here, he should be excused.

For a start the sun was shining Caribbean style from a near-clear sky. And second, the only bowlers taking wickets had names beginning with the letter 'B'. In Worcestershire's first innings the Surrey boys with the ball were Bicknell, Benjamin, Butcher and Boiling, while yesterday, as the scorecard shows, the B-factor was very much to the fore when the visitors struggled to erase a deficit of 265.

Worcestershire's own B- man was James Brinkley, a 20- year-old Scottish-born Western Australian, whose dismissal of Graham Thorpe early yesterday gave him the top six in the Surrey batting and the best debut return for the county this century.

When Thorpe came in on Thursday evening, Surrey were six for the loss of Alec Stewart, their captain, but by the time he was last man out for 190 he had set Surrey up for the victory they should secure today. He batted in all for more than eight hours and hit 23 fours in an innings of 343 balls.

What Worcestershire needed was a big hundred from their England batsman, and times were when Graeme Hick would have provided it. These days, though, the run-machine fires only intermittently on all cylinders, and his supporters wonder if the runs will ever flow so plentifully from Hick's bat again. Still, it took a fine catch to remove him, Alistair Brown flinging himself to his right at cover to grab a fierce slash.

Philip Weston (solid over four hours) and Tom Moody gave the Worcestershire innings substance with a third- wicket stand of 125 in almost three hours. If Moody didn't hit the ball with the awesome power of two years ago, he none the less looked in such good form that it was a surprise when he played on to Joey Benjamin just five balls after Weston edged James Boiling to slip. Phil Newport also contributed vital runs, and half-past-six was gone some time when Worcestershire at last avoided the follow-on, a reflection of the slow over rates that have bedevilled this game.

By close of play, Worcestershire had established a 40-run lead with three wickets remaining.