Hick lays platform for Worcestershire triumph

Worcestershire Royals 236-5 Lancashire Lightning 127 Worcs win by 109 runs
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The Independent Online

The leaders of the Norwich Union League's Second Division tightened their grip on a windswept night here, the batting of Anurag Singh and the bowling of Kabir Ali accounting for a brittle Lancashire.

In conditions blustery enough to threaten not only to blow the between-innings Rollerball competition onto the tram-lines but also to limit the floodlight pylons to half-mast, the toss was even more pivotal than than in the average day-night match.

The losers – Lancashire – knew that they could be batting in even more difficult conditions than usual, but both sides had decided to give it a try, Worcester wanting the points in order to consolidate at the top of the table and Lancashire trying to push toward the promotion places.

With the wind howling, Anurag appropriately kept one end tightly zipped up during the Royals' innings. Coming into the game with a dreadful record in the League so far this season, he comfortably exceeded his total of runs from his eight previous games and, by the time he was stumped off Chris Schofield in the penultimate over, his 80 was his best-ever score in the competition.

It could have been a different story for the Royals if Warren Hegg had accepted his first stumping opportunity, off the same bowler, when Anurag was only on 30, but otherwise the former Cambridge University captain held the innings together with assurance.

He left most of the big hitting to the batsmen at the other end, notably Graeme Hick, who looked capable of continuing his run of five centuries in his last seven innings in all competitions until run out, and Vikram Solanki.

Towards the end, David Leatherdale and Andrew Bichel also chipped in with quick runs as Worcester completed a more than healthy total against a home attack deprived for the first time of the departed Muttiah Muralitharan.

Even with the unexpected late-evening sunshine making the floodlight question academic, Lancashire made a benighted start to their reply, groping uncertainly until Mark Chilton chased a wide one from Bichel to be caught behind.

That brought in Andy Flintoff ahead of schedule, but he was soon leg before in the first over from Kabir, who dismissed John Crawley in similar fashion with his next delivery. Neil Fairbrother kept out the hat-trick ball, but there was much rebuilding to be done.

Glen Chapple, having ridden his luck when dropped early by Anurag off Bichel, showed signs of being able to carry out some repairs before becoming another Kabir lbw victim on his way to admirable figures of 3 for 37. Fairbrother played all around a straight one from Stuart Lampitt and Lancashire were in need of a power failure to match their own.

Hegg was run out by Leatherdale's swift throw and the announcement that the night's firework display had been cancelled was all too timely as the rrest of the innings fizzled out tamely.

Even the floodlights were now no excuse. They were up to their full height; the same could not be said for Lancashire.