Hick flaw sparks another collapse

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ALTHOUGH HIS innings won the match, Graeme Hick made a perfect mistake at Lord's when England looked as though they were going to reach 300 after they had been put in to bat. He and Alec Stewart had put on 76 for England's third wicket and then Nasser Hussain settled in and helped him add 92 for the fourth.

They were scoring runs as they wished and although the Sri Lankan bowlers had been honest they had been no better than that. Suddenly Hussain, who was batting with the authority and composure one would expect from a man who spent seven hours at the crease while making 94 in England's second innings in the fifth Test, swept at Kumara Dharmasena with his head up and was bowled.

England were 223-4 in the 44th over. It was now imperative that Hick should stay in to the end of the innings to prevent England having two new batsmen at the wicket for the slog overs at the end. If Hick had stayed England could reasonably have expected a total of at least 270. In the very next over, Adam Hollioake glanced Sanath Jayasuriya to short fine leg and set off for a single which Hick could easily have countermanded. All he had to do was say no, loudly and quickly, and Hollioake would have been able to get back safely enough.

As it happened, Hick responded to the call and was run out by Marvan Atapattu's throw to Romesh Kaluwitherana behind the stumps. It was such a thoughtless run by a batsman who has played enough one-day cricket to know what was required at this late stage of the innings.

As a result of Hick's willingness to risk his own wicket, two new batsmen were at the crease and as a result the innings disintegrated. In fact collectors of England collapses, and there must be many, can put this one high up in the order. Seven wickets had fallen for 24 runs off 35 balls.

The lower middle-order batsmen, as so often happens in this sort of situation, made the grave mistake of trying to hit everything for four and got themselves out. They needed to push for ones and twos and with the far-flung field that would have been easy enough.

The pyjama saga went one stage further. The Sri Lankan first names are on the backs of their shirts because their proper names are too big and, in order to fit, would have to be in very small print. The South Africans, who are the only side to have numbers on their clothes which they apparently brought with them imagining that there would be a programme saying who would wear which number. Good communication.

England, like Sri Lanka, had no numbers on their backs and, like Sri Lanka, had blue pyjamas. Very imaginative of the organisers, in a competition involving three sides, that they should arrange for two of them to wear the same colours, albeit, in slightly different shades. What was that old saying about running a piss-up in a brewery?