Hick looks to delay Warwickshire's title ambitions

Warwickshire 460 Worcestershire 161-3

It might have looked like a lost cause but no one told Graeme Hick that. Even as his team-mates, exhausted after all the running and fetching they had had to do as Warwickshire ground their way to four batting bonus points and their highest completed Championship innings without a century, the run machine was building a sizeable innings of his own.

It might have looked like a lost cause but no one told Graeme Hick that. Even as his team-mates, exhausted after all the running and fetching they had had to do as Warwickshire ground their way to four batting bonus points and their highest completed Championship innings without a century, the run machine was building a sizeable innings of his own.

Even if he does reach three figures- he is on 78 not out - he and his fourth-wicket partner Kadeer Ali will need to work extremely hard if Worcestershire are to score the 150 runs they need to take them to 311 and avoid the follow-on.

For their part, Warwickshire, in whipping out the first three wickets to earn their first bowling point, erased Kent from the chasing pack of Championship challengers and are as good as there. If they are not quite grasping the silverware, then their breath, after yesterday's exertions, is certainly causing the trophy to mist up.

Hick and Ali did make batting look a lot easier than it had appeared to be at the start of the Worcestershire innings, when the early dismissals of Stephen Moore, Stephen Peters and Ben Smith promised catastrophe for the home team. Worcestershire really needed a victory in each of their last two fixtures to have a chance of escaping relegation. The tumbling of that trio - two to Heath Streak and one to Dougie Brown - did not help the collective cause.

But Hick and Ali did not panic. Hick took the aggressive route and hammered a half-century off 57 balls, setting the ground abuzz as the prospect of a brisk hundred loomed.

Ali played a perfect foil to Hick's sabre, patiently making his way to his highest score of the season and the fourth half-century of his career much later in the day. By then Hick, who was dropped by Jonathan Trott at slip off Jim Troughton's effective left-arm spin when on 63, had rather gone into a shell.

Earlier, Warwickshire's batsmen had done their stuff. They missed out on maximum batting points but they still passed 400 in the first innings for the 11th time this season. They required a sterling stand of 114 for the seventh wicket between Troughton and Naqaash Tahir to get them anywhere near the mark.

Troughton, who has been rediscovering his touch, was well caught by Steve Rhodes when the total was just shy of the mark, but Tahir stuck it out, making a career-best 49. The tail then wagged long enough to present Worcestershire with a formidable task. Now a county waits on Hick.

¿ Nottinghamshire have announced the signing of Northamptonshire off-spinner Graeme Swann on a three-year deal. The 25-year-old has toured South Africa, Zimbabwe and the West Indies with the full national squad and has played one-day international cricket for England.

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