Cricket: 'I had a lot to prove to people and myself'

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The Independent Online
Graeme Hick's fourth Test hundred yesterday provided some welcome evidence that he is coming to terms with pace bowling at Test match level.

Last summer's three-figure contribution against the West Indies on a low, slow Trent Bridge pitch still left a question mark over Hick's technique when facing quick bowling. But here, there was enough bounce to keep South Africa's five fast men - led by Allan Donald - interested. They tried plenty of bouncers but Hick responded with 21 boundaries in his priceless, unbeaten 105.

"Playing fast bowling has been something I've worried about in the past," Hick admitted. "But it's not anything that really bothers me."

If that sounds contradictory, the Worcestershire batsman was altogether easier to follow during his four-hour innings. Since being dropped at Old Trafford last summer, Hick has responded with Test scores of 118 not out, 7, 96, 51 not out and now an unbeaten 105. At last, the player who has dominated county cricket is showing his worth at Test level. "I was very disappointed to be left out during the summer and had a lot to prove to people and myself after that," he said.

"I thoroughly enjoyed the day and think it was quite an important hundred."

However, Hick's contribution was not the only highlight as England recovered from 64 for 3 after being put in, Mike Atherton' innings of 78 proving equally as crucial.

"He played very well," said Hick, after his stand of 142 with Atherton. "We've had a good day - it would have been a superb day if Mike was still at the crease."

For South Africa, electing to field first with an all- pace attack did not have the desired effect of wreaking havoc with the England batsmen. "We took a gamble," Bob Woolmer, their English coach, admitted. "We hoped the pitch would be more conducive to seam and swing but the ball did not go sideways all day. Hick and Atherton played superbly and really got stuck in after lunch.

"That's what Test cricket is all about. But our bowlers kept at it and a couple of quick wickets in the morning will make it look a different game."