Cricket: Hick's defiance is England's one consolation: England supporters boo West Indians off Sabina Park after tourists' tail-end batsmen suffer short-pitched barrage from bowlers

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England. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .234 and 267

West Indies. . . . . . . . . . . . .407 and 87-2

ENGLAND'S drowning men at least have one straw to clutch at before they finally go under in the first Test here today. Graeme Hick, who is more used to doffing his helmet to check for damage against West Indian bowling, came within four runs of raising it in acknowledgement of his second Test century yesterday until any minuscule hopes of England saving the game disappeared with him into the Sabina Park pavilion.

Against the same opposition in 1991, Hick began a much- trumpeted Test career with a severe going-over, a series average of 10.71, a 'we'll ring you' message from the England selectors after four Tests, and a reputation against fast, short- pitched bowling that ranged between suspect and hopeless.

Hick's five hour and 10- minute innings of 96 here yesterday went some way towards restoring his credentials as a high-class Test player, not to mention a confidence quotient that had become sufficiently drained for him to employ the services of a pyschologist. What it could not do - even though it prevented what threatened to be a routine mopping-up operation - was to deny (in the absence of a monsoon today) the West Indies drawing first blood in this series.

The home team were left with 95 to win with 21 overs of the fourth day remaining, and Desmond Haynes and Brian Lara were in such imperious form that they almost made it. Lara was bowled behind his legs by Andrew Caddick off the final ball of the day, but with only eight more runs required and eight wickets in hand, the final day's play may not stretch beyond the first over.

However, we also witnessed yesterday the uglier side of West Indian cricket, which resulted in the home players leaving the field to a chorus of well- deserved booing and whistling from the England supporters. It also proved that the fatuous one-bouncer-per-batsman-per- over regulation does precisely nothing to counteract intimidatory bowling, nor does it encourage umpires to step in under an age-old law (42) specifically designed to stop it.

When England's last pair of Andrew Caddick and Devon Malcolm were holding up the West Indies' prospects of victory inside four days, Courtney Walsh resorted to peppering Malcolm with deliveries rearing up at the rib cage.

Malcolm three times required treatment from the England physio after getting hit around the body, and when Walsh finally latched on to the copper-bottomed way of getting Malcolm out - aim at the stumps - he promptly rearranged the timberwork.

England were 93 runs behind with only six second-innings wickets left when the fourth day got under way on a pitch still playing pretty easily despite an inconsistent bounce, which made Walsh's new-ball performance on Monday all the more remarkable.

After it, Mike Atherton said that some of his players sat boggle-eyed in the dressing- room as England's batsmen hopped and dived around the crease, and this is almost a young enough team for Atherton to have forbidden a few of them to watch without written permission from their parents.

England seemed to be in for more of the same yesterday morning when Jack Russell avoided a bouncer in Walsh's first over only with a leap that would have been perilously close to the Jamaican all-comers' high jump record.

Hick and Russell had added 46 before Russell carelessly flicked Winston Benjamin to square leg, and another crucial wicket went down before lunch when Graham Thorpe again raised severe doubts about his technique at this level. It was a decent yorker from Benjamin, but only Thorpe will know why his blade was pointing closer to the fielder at midwicket than the bowler at point of impact.

Hick's next partner, Chris Lewis, was not so much leaving the pavilion as entering the last chance saloon, but although he survived for an hour and a half in helping add 58 for the seventh wicket, 21 runs was hardly compelling evidence for a stay of execution.

Hick tried to get his century with a back-foot cut off Kenny Benjamin that nipped back enough to cramp him for room, and Hick was doubly unlucky in that a fast head- high edge to second slip would normally have found Richie Richardson waiting for it. However, the captain was off the field with a migraine, and the ball ended up in the bucket-like hands of Roger Harper, probably the best fielder in the world.

SABINA PARK SCOREBOARD

(Fourth day: England won toss)

ENGLAND - First Innings 234 (A J Stewart 70, M A Atherton 55; K C G Benjamin 6-66).

WEST INDIES - First Innings 407 (K L T Arthurton 126, J C Adams 95no, B C Lara 83).

ENGLAND - Second Innings

(Monday close: 80 for 4)

G A Hick c sub (Harper) b K Benjamin. . . . . . . . . . . . .96

(306 min, 187 balls, 12 fours)

R C Russell c Adams b W Benjamin. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .32

(75 min, 55 balls, 3 fours)

G P Thorpe b W Benjamin. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .14

(51 min, 41 balls, 2 fours)

C C Lewis lbw b Ambrose. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .21

(94 min, 69 balls, 2 fours)

A R Caddick not out. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .29

(83 min, 50 balls, 4 fours)

A P Igglesden c Adams b K Benjamin. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .0

(10 min, 10 balls)

D E Malcolm b Walsh. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .18

(43 min, 22 balls, 3 fours)

Extras (b1 lb3 w2 nb2). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .8

Total (427 min, 91.5 overs). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .267

Fall (cont): 5-126 (Russell), 6-155 (Thorpe), 7-213 (Lewis), 8-226 (Hick), 9-228 (Igglesden), 10-267 (Malcolm).

Progress: Fourth day: 100: 169 min, 36.1 overs. 150: 234 min, 50.2 overs. Lunch: 181- 6 (Hick 75, Lewis 7) in 60 overs. 200: 313 min, 69.2 overs. New ball: 75 overs, 212-6. 250: 408 min, 88.3 overs. Tea delayed by 30 min; innings closed 3.18pm.

Hick's 50: 152 min, 85 balls, 5 fours.

Bowling: Ambrose 24-4-67-1 (2nb 1w) (6-1-14-0, 2-1-4-0, 5-0-18-0, 5-1-10-0, 6-1- 21-1); Walsh 24.5-6-67-3 (14-3-35-2, 3-0- 15-0, 6-3-9-0, 1.5-0-8-1); W K M Benjamin 20-3-56-3 (8-2-21-1, 10-1-25-2, 2-0-10-0); K C G Benjamin 18-2-60-2 (1nb 1w) (6-0- 24-0, 5-0-21-0, 7-2-15-2); Adams 2-0-9-0 (1-0-1-0, 1-0-8-0); Simmons 3-1-4-0 (one spell).

WEST INDIES - Second Innings

D L Haynes not out. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .40

(100 min, 65 balls, 5 fours)

P V Simmons lbw b Igglesden. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .12

(55 min, 27 balls, 1 four)

B C Lara b Caddick. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .28

(42 min, 35 balls, 3 fours, 1 six)

Extras (b4 lb3). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .7

Total (for 2, 100 min, 21 overs). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .87

Fall: 1-38 (Simmons), 2-87 (Lara).

To bat: * R B Richardson, K L T Arthurton, J C Adams, J R Murray, W K M Benjamin, C E L Ambrose, K C G Benjamin, C A Walsh.

Bowling (to date): Malcolm 5-1-19-0 (1nb) (3-1-10-0, 2-0-9-0); Caddick 6-1-19-1 (3-1-7-0, 3-0-12-1); Lewis 3-0-6-0; Igglesden 7-0-36-1 (one spell each).

Progress: 50: 67 min, 13.2 overs.

Umpires: S A Bucknor and I D Robinson.

(Photograph omitted)

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