Cricket / Third Test: Hick passes milestone with aplomb

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England. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .347

India. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .144-1

THE SUSPENSE did not even begin to kill him. At 26, Graeme Hick has spent so much time in life's waiting-room that another 17 hours was not going to make any difference.

When it came to it, he needed only three more balls in the bright sunlight of a Bombay morning. The big bat came down to block Rajesh Chauhan's first ball to silly point. His second was prodded to short leg. And his third was pushed into the covers for an easy single whose lack of overt drama may have been ill-suited to the intrinsic nature of the event but certainly played true to Hick's unhistrionic nature.

For once, though, he allowed himself a punch of the air. No wonder. Nine years after the farmer's son from Bulawayo started the process of qualifying to play for England, and two years after his eventual international debut, he had achieved the maiden Test century that many people had felt might now be beyond the most prolific batsman of recent times. And the little matter of an overnight stay on 99 at the end of the first day in the final Test against India here certainly was not enough to disturb his equilibrium.

Hick is not the type, in circumstances like these, to stay up throwing the I Ching or checking out what Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle has to say. So how had he spent the most momentous night of his career? 'The usual way. Something to eat. A couple of beers with the lads. Went to sleep.'

Peacefully? 'Sure.' But what had been going through his mind? 'I thought of quite a few ways of getting out, but I ended up telling myself that if someone had come up to me at the beginning of the day and said that I'd be on 99 not out at the end of it, I'd have been quite happy.'

He was not going to make a fuss about it, but, yes, this certainly was the most memorable of his 68 first-class centuries - more precious even than the undefeated 405 for Worcestershire against Somerset at Taunton five summers ago.

We asked him to describe his feelings at yesterday's moment of triumph. Could he put them into words? 'I don't know. I haven't got many words in my vocabulary. I know that the feeling was the reason I play cricket at all. But I'd have to search for the word.'

Many people tried to give him advice as he went through 11 Tests before the present tour with an average of 18.05, dashing expectations of the arrival of a second Bradman. 'I don't mind anyone coming up and telling me what's right and wrong with my game,' he said yesterday. 'Whether I listen is up to me. But after two years of it, I can maybe look back and think that I did try to listen to too many people, rather than the two or three who really know me well.' Among those, he singled out Basil D'Oliveira. 'Basil's always been the same with me,' he said. 'He played his own natural game, and that's what he's always told me to do.'

Had he ever doubted that he would see three figures against his name on a Test-match scoreboard? 'No. It's taken a while, but I always felt I had it in me. If it hadn't happened on this tour, I'd probably have missed the Ashes series in the summer. Then I'd just have had to start all over again.'

And which of the Indian spinners, a Bombay journalist enquired, had caused him the most trouble?

'Today, I'd have to say none.'

Ignoring the advice of 81-year- old Lala Amarnath, the first Indian to score a Test century, back in 1933, Hick continued to play the spinners from the crease, and looked increasingly secure. He might still be there now, if the narrative of the England innings had not got in the way.

Only two or three thousand were in the Wankhede Stadium to see him pass the early-morning milestone. By the time he was out, skying Manoj Prabhakar's delivery into Kapil Dev's hands at mid- wicketwhile trying to protect England's last man, Phil Tufnell, from the strike, lunch had come and gone, and the ground was almost full. Coming in at a perilous 58 for 4 the previous morning, Hick had seen England through to a total of 347, sharing a seventh-wicket stand of 93 with Chris Lewis and nursing the last three batsman through the addition of a further 136 runs. Personal goals had nothing to do with any of that.

It was the last stand of all, with Tufnell, that made the difference between another below-par performance and respectability. When Tufnell prodded Prabhakar through cover for two runs to bring up their 50 partnership, it was his first scoring stroke, so carefully had Hick shielded him.

Its historical significance aside, Hick's 178 in 390 minutes and 320 balls was not an event to stir the blood. He is a big gun, but a resolutely impassive one: his innings are about accuracy, efficiency, integrity. His bat swings like a pendulum, not a wand. He may have taken Tom Graveney's 41-year-old record for a Test score by an England player in Bombay, but it is hard to believe that he will ever evoke a similar golden glow. He is a great team player, though, and a run-accumulator of limitlesss potential. Now that he has overcome the three-figure barrier for England, there may be no stopping him.

In fact, England's useful total was put into clearer perspective when India's opening batsmen took the field. On a track that had lost some of the first day's capacity for surprise along with its moisture, Prabhakar and Navjot Sidhu cruised to 109 before Prabhakar, on 44, turned Hick off his hips into Richard Blakey's gloves.

Sidhu greeted the arrival of Vinod Kambli, one of three young Bombay batsmen making their hometown Test debuts, with a majestic six off Hick, high over long- on into the eighth row of the press box. Then his partner took over, and for a few minutes it was as though someone had dropped a match in a fireworks factory.

A compact left-hander, Kambli is the opposite of Hick in every respect. Dancing a delicate two-step out of his crease to one of Hick's off-breaks, he sent the ball screaming through the covers. The next delivery was coaxed to the mid- wicket boundary. A few seconds later he waited, coiled himself, and cut the ball late past point for four with a ferocity and a speed of stroke that would have brought a nod of recognition from Gordon Greenidge. At 104 for 1, with the admirable Sidhu on 69, Kambli on 20, and only John Emburey of the England bowlers looking capable of containing them, the crowd went home in a mood of happy anticipation. Whatever Hick's triumph may mean to England's future the danger of a 3-0 series defeat here has not yet passed.

The Australian team are seeking legal advice over remarks made by by the former West Indies captain Viv Richards during a speaking tour he has been making of Australia with the former England all- rounder Ian Botham.

BOMBAY SCOREBOARD

(Second day: England won toss)

ENGLAND - First Innings

* G A Gooch c More b Kapil Dev. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .4

27 min, 19 balls

A J Stewart run out (Amre). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .13

57 min, 43 balls, 1 four

M A Atherton c Prabhakar b Kumble. . . . . . . . . . . .37

147 min, 113 balls, 3 fours

R A Smith c More b Venkat Raju. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2

9 min, 6 balls

M W Gatting c Kapil Dev b Venkat Raju. . . . . . . .23

39 min, 45 balls, 3 fours

G A Hick c Kapil Dev b Prabhakar. . . . . . . . . . . .178

390 min, 319 balls, 20 fours, 1 six

R J Blakey lbw b Kumble. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1

7 min, 11 balls

C C Lewis lbw b Kumble. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .49

116 min, 112 balls, 5 fours

J E Emburey c More b Kapil Dev. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .12

90 min, 88 balls, 2 fours

P A J DeFreitas lbw b Kapil Dev. . . . . . . . . . . . . .11

17 min, 19 balls, 2 fours

P C R Tufnell not out. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2

81 min, 40 balls

Extras (b4 lb5 w2 nb4). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .15

Total (502 min, 135 overs). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .347

Fall: 1-11 (Gooch), 2-25 (Stewart), 3-30 (Smith), 4-58 (Gatting), 5-116 (Atherton), 6-118 (Blakey), 7-211 (Lewis), 8-262 (Emburey), 9-279 (DeFreitas).

Bowling: Kapil Dev 15-3-35-3 (w1) (6-2-10-1) (7-1-13-2) (2-0-12-0); Prabhakar 13-2-52-1 (nb5 w1) (6-2-14-0) (4-0-30-0) (3-0-8-1); Venkatapathy Raju 44-8-102-2 (23-6-53-2) (8-0-19-0) (6-2-8-0) (7-0-22-0); Kumble 40-4-95-3 (8-0- 20-0) (10-0-38-2) (12-2-19-1) (4-0-7-0) (4-1-9-0) (2-1-2-0); Chauhan 23-7-54-0 (7-2-25-0) (9-2- 18-0) (4-1-10-0) (1-0-1-0) (2-2-0-0).

Progress: First day: 50: 102 min, 26.1 overs. Lunch: 62-4 (Atherton 16, Hick 0) in 31 overs. 100: 158 min, 42.2 overs. 150: 213 min, 56.3 overs. Tea: 176-6 (Hick 57, Lewis 34) in 64 overs. 200: 285 min, 77.3 overs. Close: 239-7 (Hick 99, Emburey 5) 99 overs. Second day: 250: 380 min, 104.5 overs. 300: 444 min, 119.1 overs. Lunch: 327-9 (Hick 161, Tufnell 0) in 130 overs. New ball taken after lunch. Innings closed: 12.36pm.

Hick's 50: 112 min, 79 balls, 7 fours. 100: 251 min, 192 balls, 10 fours. 150: 353 min, 280 balls, 16 fours.

INDIA - First Innings

N S Sidhu not out. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .69

212 min, 167 balls, 11 fours, 1 six

M Prabhakar c Blakey b Hick. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .44

165 min, 134 balls, 4 fours, 1 six

V G Kambli not out. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .20

44 min, 38 balls, 4 fours

Extras (b2 lb6 nb3). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .11

Total (for 1, 212 min, 56 overs). . . . . . . . . . . . .144

Fall: 1-109 (Prabhakar).

To bat: S R Tendulkar, * M Azharuddin, P K Amre, Kapil Dev, K S More, A Kumble, R K Chauhan, Venkatapathy Raju.

Bowling: DeFreitas 7-2-16-0 (4-2-8-0) (3-0-8- 0); Lewis 7-2-12-0 (one spell); Emburey 20-7- 35-0 (13-5-21-0) (5-1-13-0) (2-1-1-0); Tufnell 13-3-32-0 (10-3-28-0) (3-0-4-0); Hick 9-1-41-1 (one spell).

Progress: Second day: Tea: 43-0 (Sidhu 19, Prabhakar 20) in 22 overs. 50: 100 min, 25.1 overs. 100: 147 min, 39.3 overs.

Sidhu's 50: 147 min, 121 balls, 10 fours.

Umpires: P D Reporter and S Venkataraghavan.

England A news, Sport in Short, page 29

(Photograph omitted)

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