Cricket: Hick's second wind blows Essex away

Essex v Worcestershire
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FOR THE benefit of those who missed it the first time around, Graeme Hick flayed the flagging Essex attack for a second hundred in this match, inducing acute anoraksia in the statisticians and facts-smiths.

Statistics seem to swarm all over the man like bees around an apiarist. The only breathers offered to the keepers of the figures, apart from the statutory intervals, came when he twice lost the ball, once in the river and then - having reached three figures - in someone's back garden in neighbouring Hayes Close.

It is the fourth time Hick has scored a century in each innings; the third occasion he has done so in this country. This, his 108th, brought him alongside Zaheer Abbas, the former Pakistani Test cricketer, in the all-time list, was his highest score of the season, his fourth hundred of the summer and - for good measure - he passed 1,000 first-class runs for the season.

The crowd were generous in their applause as Hick reached each milestone - his 15th boundary brought up the 100 and there were 19 fours in his 150, as well as three sixes - but they grew increasingly anxious about the part Hick appeared to be playing in their team's destiny.

Nasser Hussain's men need to win this match to give themselves any chance of avoiding relegation to the Second Division, but in Hick's shadow, as they were for much of yesterday, they looked doomed. Hussain swapped and switched his bowlers around from end to end and over to over, using up seven of them in an effort to discover a chink in Hick's defence. Not a glimmer. It was hell on earth.

Hick, meanwhile, was in his idea of heaven - a flat track and all was right with his world. It was not even as if the bowlers were sending down a stream of tosh; Hick was prepared to punish the good as well as the bad. It was ugly for Essex.

His power was awesome. The six he hit off Ricky Anderson, which was marginally outside the line of off-stump, went in a blur, straight and high over the sightscreen. It is doubtful if Essex would ever want to ask for their ball back.

Hick's contribution to the Worcestershire cause was all the more remarkable given the meekness of his team-mates. At one point Anderson had claimed three of them in 19 balls as he helped reduce them to 99 for 5. But Hick was cruising by then. He added 74 for the sixth wicket with Steven Rhodes, then shared in a 126-run stand with Duncan Catterall. By the time Hick was caught at mid-wicket he had pulled Worcestershire clear of trouble, simultaneously lowering Essex into it.