Hick up to speed with fast century

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DEREK HODGSON

reports from Worcester

Worcestershire 204 and 178-3

Surrey 183

David Graveney, General Secretary of the Cricketers' Association and an England selector, always carries a black leather bag, the sort of bag a French colonel might trail behind le President.

Graveney's bag holds the names of England's possible team for next week's first Test. Those names must have included Graeme Hick, Steven Rhodes, Alec Stewart, Graham Thorpe and Joey Benjamin. There will be red ticks after the names of Hick and Stewart; but the others?

Benjamin had the best return (4 for 47) in Worcestershire's first innings but had been displaced in selectorial thinking by Peter Martin. Thorpe did not help his cause by misjudging Phil Newport's bounce, while Rhodes did his job efficiently behind the stumps with four catches. Stewart, Thursday's brilliant catch apart, has added nothing to the file but Hick - well, Hick yesterday was majestic.

Surrey, batting on a morning pitch that seamed more than Thursday's, were all out 21 behind by 2.45pm, Alistair Brown's bat flailing five sixes and five fours in taking 58 off 71 balls. His chief support came from Graham Kersey and the promising Richard Nowell. By tea, the sun emerging, the pitch easing, Surrey had to expect, at the least, hard work.

Curtis and Hick obliged. At that interval Hick had hit nine fours in 42 out of 71; his 52 was made out of 87 with his 11th boundary. Tony Pigott and Mark Butcher suffered chiefly although Nowell's left-arm spinners went for two sixes.

When Benjamin was recalled he was pulled for two more fours and then in the same over the century arrived with a massive six over midwicket. The season's fastest first-class century came off 76 balls, with three sixes and 17 fours, Hick outstripping Gloucestershire's Andrew Symonds' hundred off 93 balls - against Surrey, at the Oval, five weeks ago.

Pigott trudged off to join Neal Radford in treatment, Curtis won a derisive cheer with his first single in 32 deliveries. As the cloud returned the pace slackened although Surrey were always prepared to liven proceedings again with the odd long hop.

The stand had reached 151 in 33 overs, Hick batting just over two hours for 120 when he shaped to cut the returning Carl Rackemann and gave gulley a dolly. Tom Moody's departure next over was an undeserved and unexpected bonus.

Surrey take an interminable time to bowl their overs and many of yesterday's could be described as both tedious and shoddy.

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