Cricket: Hick's stand salvages pride

Nottinghamshire 417 & 35-0 Worcestershire 172 & 279 Notts win by 10 wickets
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The Independent Online
IF IAN BOTHAM had his way, Graeme Hick would not have been playing in this match, so from Worcestershire's point of view it is just as well that the former England captain's opinions on the national team's World Cup preparations have no official status. Had Hick been resting up, in line with Botham's prescription, then the recovery by which Worcestershire avoided defeat by an innings here yesterday would not have taken place.

Botham, never slow to offer his views these days even when not invited, accused the England selectors of making a "major mistake" by releasing Hick and the other members of the 15-strong World Cup squad to play for their counties, suggesting the players had been given the equivalent of "naughty-boy nets" as a punishment for their poor display in the Coca- Cola Cup in Sharjah.

Already without Tom Moody, summoned early by the Australians, and with a long injury list, Worcestershire would have been in an even deeper predicament had Hick been required for some sort of bonding session. In the event, after the visitors had entered the third day still 191 runs behind Nottinghamshire and with two second-innings wickets gone, Hick led an unexpected recovery.

His partnership with Vikram Solanki, unbroken at 26 overnight, was eventually worth 204 runs to their side. The two enjoyed some moments of good fortune - Solanki was badly dropped at second slip on 24, Hick almost caught there on 16 - but otherwise demonstrated the conviction largely lacking in Worcestershire's batting the first time around.

Conditions were less demanding in that the pitch, which had offered sometimes pronounced movement off the seam over the first two days, had become tamer. Moreover, the Nottinghamshire bowlers did not bowl such a good line as before. However, vigilance was still required, especially with cloud cover pushing up humidity levels after lunch, and both batsmen took care to treat the better balls with respect.

Those two chances apart, the first session was relatively trouble-free for them. Hick led Worcestershire to 179 at lunch without loss on the day, 121 having been added. Solanki was not far behind, on 58 to Hick's 74.

But more happened for the bowlers in the afternoon and after the breakthrough came, with Hick's dismissal on 89, following 13 fours, Worcestershire's collapse was swift.

Hick was pouched by wicketkeeper Chris Read after pushing forward a little tamely at Mark Bowen, who then removed David Leatherdale in similar style next ball. Then came another incisive spell from Vasbert Drakes, Worcestershire's destroyer of the first innings, who induced Solanki to drag one on to his stumps and then immediately had Steven Rhodes caught at first slip.

With Stuart Lampitt unable to bat, this left only three wickets to claim and although Gavin Haynes stuck around long enough to ensure Nottinghamshire needed to bat a second time, Worcestershire's lead when he became last man out was only 34, Drakes ending with 4 for 60 in the innings and 9 for 109 in the match.