Cricket: Hick waits to upset apple cart

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The Independent Online
PATRIOTISM is all very well, but the capacity audiences at Lord's today and Old Trafford on Monday might conceivably be hoping that England's limited-overs team can discover a bit of their limited Test match form. There is nothing quite so tedious as a one-sided one-day match, and instead of being treated to a series of breathless finishes, spectators thus far have been rummaging around for a knitting pattern or a good book.

Pakistan, facing totals of 278, 302, and 363 respectively, have been beaten by a combined aggregate of 316 runs over the three matches, and the fact that they were unarguably the better side over five Tests merely illustrates the vast difference between the two types of game.

The Worcestershire player batting at No 6 at Trent Bridge on Thursday was, so the scorecard alleges, the same bloke who was vanishing down the order at Nos 3, 6 and 7 in the Test series, and who looked like becoming - until he got dropped - a serious challenger for Devon Malcolm's jealously guarded No 11 spot.

It remains something of a mystery as to why Graeme Hick's bat should resemble a wide-gauge railway sleeper in a one-dayer, and a wafer-thin stick of celery in a Test match. In 17 Test innings, Hick has scored 307 runs at an average of 18.06. In his last two one- day knocks, Hick has creamed 134 runs off 94 balls, including 15 fours and three sixes.

On Thursday, the pitch was perfect and the bowling mediocre, which would suggest that there is some merit in the highly uncomplimentary comment proffered by the former New Zealand player John Bracewell last winter. Hick, he said, was nothing but a 'flat track bully'.

However, no one can savage bowling in the way that Hick did at Trent Bridge, and does regularly in county cricket, without being exceptionally gifted. The selectors have, so to speak, planted their tree, and one day expect it to fruit.

If Newton had sat underneath it, he would walked off without a bump on his head, and someone else would have discovered gravity. However, the selectors are working on the theory that had Newton been prepared to wait as long as they apparently are, he still would not have discovered gravity. He would have died of asphyxiation, buried underneath half a ton of apples.

The selectors have not been as patient with one or two other talented players, notably Neil Fairbrother, who might have mixed feelings about scoring 150 runs off 156 balls in the three Texaco matches. Fairbrother (nine Test innings, 64 runs, average eight) has been so thoroughly pigeon-holed as a one-day specialist, he must feel like a chef with aspirations to a Michelin star stuck behind a chip-shop counter.

It will be of no consolation to Fairbrother that he is at least in a steady job. Despite giving Test cricket a 94-year start, the one-day international is taking over as inexorably as the grey squirrel over the red. After 1,191 Tests in 115 years, today's players step out for the 759th one-dayer in 21. This is England's 206th, so it is perhaps no surprise that they are rather good at them.

With the series won, Dominic Cork, the 21-year-old Derbyshire all-rounder, is likely to be among those emerging from the England dressing room. Yorkshire's 25- year-old wicketkeeper-batsman Richard Blakey, called into the squad yesterday, will also figure in at least one of the last two games. This can only attract interest, as opposed to attracting the interest of Age Concern and Meals on Wheels.