Cricket: Hick strikes fearsome riposte: England's young batsmen take charge after Atherton falls cheaply

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England 419 and 125-1

Antigua XI 360

GRAEME HICK, who has destroyed all but the very best attacks, smashed another half-century after the Antigua XI's captain, McChesney Simon, had exploited England's depleted attack yesterday.

Simon made the most of Mike Atherton's under-strength bowling line-up at St John's by hitting 129, but Hick responded in kind with 10 fours and a six during his 54-ball 50, a display banishing the memory of his first-innings failure. At close of play he was 59 not out.

The same was true of Graham Thorpe, who made only a single on Sunday. Opening yesterday in place of Alec Stewart, who is resting a groin strain, the young Surrey batsman scored a badly needed undefeated half-century during an unbroken second-wicket stand of 112 with Hick.

Thorpe struggled painfully at times and his hooking, in particular, was unimpressive. But spending two and a half hours at the crease should have done him a power of good.

By the end of the third day of this four-day match, England were 184 ahead at 125 for 1. The only batting disappointment was Atherton's dismissal for seven, lazily flicking a shot to square leg.

With the Glamorgan seamer, Steve Watkin, having treatment in the pavilion and unlikely to play any further part in the game because of his back spasm, Atherton's bowling options had been severely limited.

Although Andy Caddick emerged with figures of 5 for 106 from 27 overs to gain a fair amount of credit, Simon stole the honours. He was the real hero to the sprinkling of home fans who are bothering to watch this match, leading Antigua to 360 all out.

Simon resumed on 35 and wasted no time in setting about England's bowlers by pulling leg-spinner Ian Salisbury for four and six during the first over of a day which started 45 minutes late because of rain. But Salisbury later retaliated by removing Hamesh Anthony with the help of Hick's well-judged catch at deep midwicket.

When Caddick, easily the pick of the bowlers on Monday, produced another hostile spell - this time with the second new ball - to have Chester Joseph caught behind and Vince Smith taken at second slip, Antigua were 301 for 7.

But Simon remained the thorn in England's flesh and the runs that took him to 100 were struck off Caddick, the bowler who thought he had got his wicket cheaply on Monday when a caught behind appeal was turned down.

Simon batted for four hours and hit 14 fours as well as that six. Salisbury finally removed him, thanks to a superb diving catch from Robin Smith at short fine leg, Caddick having earlier completed his five-wicket haul by having Jensen Joseph taken at point. By the time he was last out, the tourists were just 59 runs ahead after the first innings.

England are hoping that Watkin will be fit in time for Saturday's match against St Kitts and Nevis, but the team's physiotherapist, Dave Roberts, is unable to guarantee it.

(Third day of four: England won toss)

ENGLAND - First Innings 419 (M A Atherton 108, A J Stewart 100, A R Caddick 77; H A G Anthony 4-130).

ANTIGUA XI - First Innings

(Overnight: 226 for 4)

* M V Simon c Smith b Salisbury 129

H A G Anthony c Hick b Salisbury 46

C Joseph c Russell b Caddick 8

V Smith c Hick b Caddick 9

R Challenger lbw b Igglesden 1

J Joseph c sub b Caddick 11

W K L Quinn not out 1

Extras (b3 lb5 nb7) 15

Total 360

Fall (cont): 5-253 6-281 7-301 8-316 9-350.

Bowling: Igglesden 18-2-92-2; Caddick 27-4-106-5; Salisbury 35.2-10-105-3; Hick 16-3-49-0.

ENGLAND - Second Innings

* M A Atherton c sub b Challenger 7

G P Thorpe not out 50

G A Hick not out 59

Extras (lb5 nb4) 9

Total (for 1) 125

Fall: 1-13.

To bat: A J Stewart, R A Smith, N Hussain, R C Russell, I D K Salisbury, A R Caddick, S L Watkin, A P Igglesden.

Bowling: Quinn 10-0-32-0; Challenger

10-4-11-1; Anthony 9-1-33-0; Smith 7-1-38-0; Simon 5-1-6-0.

Umpires: C Mack and P White.