Hick ups the Test ante

Worcs 459-9 dec & 146-6 Kent 366
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Here is a familiar story. Until Graeme Hick arrived at the crease at Canterbury yesterday batting looked a thankless business. However, he played the game on a different plane from those who preceded him. Not that any of the rasping shots mattered.

The drives, the reverse sweeps, the veritable clubs executed without the diving boots he must reserve for slowing down his footwork in Test matches, the delicious pulled four with which he went in for tea were all meaningless in a wider context. None of this - except maybe the power of the reverse sweeps - is new.

On a sporting pitch of increasingly variable bounce the rapidity of the poor fellow's 86 in 91 balls merely accentuated his disappointing performances in other arenas. Along the way, Hick avoided falling victim to Dean Headley's second hat-trick in consecutive matches. It was as well for Worcestershire that Hick was around as it will probably be as well for England that he is not.

Worcestershire led by 93 after the first innings after a thoroughly uninspired Kent batting exhibition. The pitch might have been untrustworthy but so was their batting. It seemed the day was meant for Carl Hooper. Captain of Kent for the first time in a first-class match, he was 58 not out overnight, his 50 having arrived delightfully in 60 balls. His next 26 runs took another 71 balls but at least he seemed determined. Then he pulled foolishly across the line at Richard Illingworth and was gone.

It was the first of several misdemeanours. Nigel Llong stayed around pleasantly enough for most of the morning but he also gave it away. The slip catch was good, the vague slash which provided it less so.

Almost mercifully, Kent went without much resistance in the afternoon. Getting forward should have been the dressing room watchword, but almost invariably they were out going back. Matthew Fleming was breezy but brittle, Simon Willis was sensible for a while. It seemed as though a declaration might be in order. But Hooper went so far as to send in the injured Mark Ealham, who lasted for just two balls.

Maybe Hooper thought every run was valuable. So it proved. Headley reduced Worcestershire to 86 for six - but they still led by a significant 239 by the close - the first Kent player since 1949 to take a hat-trick at Canterbury, when the great Doug Wright did so. Had it included Hick he might have saved certain selectors some serious deliberations.