Thorpe sets example Hick will never follow

While England's last five wickets were battling away against Curtly Ambrose, Courtney Walsh and Nixon McLean under leaden skies in Kennington, it could hardly have been in greater contrast to the conditions in which England will play their next Test match.

While England's last five wickets were battling away against Curtly Ambrose, Courtney Walsh and Nixon McLean under leaden skies in Kennington, it could hardly have been in greater contrast to the conditions in which England will play their next Test match.

On 15 November at the Gadaffi Stadium in Lahore, they will start the first of their three Test matches against Pakistan. It will be hot and dusty and maybe foggy too, and something of a miracle if the opening exchanges between these two sides are not played out to the accompaniment of the heavy artillery of cricketing politics in the background.

The last time England ventured to Pakistan, in 1987, Mike Gatting, the captain, had his infamous run-in with the umpire, Shakoor Rana. That incident will not have been forgotten and even now may come to haunt Nasser Hussain's side.

Two of his key batsmen then, Graham Thorpe and Graeme Hick, in their contrasting styles, were yesterday struggling to keep out the West Indies' fast bowlers. There is something reassuringly phlegmatic and chunky about Thorpe and England must be the better for his presence.

His left-handedness is, of course, a great asset to the team and he is such an outwardly unflappable batsman that the example he always sets to his colleagues is invaluable. He is also someone who has done it all before so many times and with such success, even though this winter will bring him his first series in Pakistan.

He is unlikely, too, to come across a Pakistani fast bowler who has mastered the art of the slower ball as well as Walsh. For the second time in this series he was completely dumbfounded by this extraordinary delivery which Walsh has the knack of bowling straight - to Thorpe at any rate.

The way in which he fought, runless through the first hour of the second day, was an indication of the character he brings to the business of batting. He was getting on with the job against two of the finest of all fast bowlers and he never gave an inch.

Hick kept him company through that first hour and well on into the second before he played across the line at Ambrose. One only wishes that Hick could communicate a similar feeling of calm and reliability, but sadly that is most unlikely ever to happen.

He is now 34 and yet he is still fighting for his place as hard as he has ever done. In Pakistan, his ability to play spin should be important to England, although before the ball is thrown to the likes of Mushtaq Ahmed and Saqlain Mushtaq, fast bowlers such as Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, and Shoiab Akhtar will have had their say in his survival to face the spinners. It will not be easy for Hick or anyone else for that matter.

It would be lovely to think that Hick will return from the sub-continent as a regular in the side, but the likelihood of that happening must be small. By the time England's cricketers settle down to their Christmas lunch back at home after Pakistan, Thorpe's reliability is more likely to be the first toast over the roast turkey.

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