A tank against pea-shooters
Graeme Hick, born
in Zimbabwe, was
embarking on his
fourth full season
in English county
cricket. He was 21,
still three years
from a Test debut
that was taken for
granted. In his first
three summers he
had scored 5,148
first-class runs at
56.57. And then he
went to Taunton...
At Old Trafford in April Graeme Hick had made 212 in a 10-wicket victory. The next best score in the match was 68. At Taunton, where he made 405 off 469 balls, it was 56. He became the eighth man to score 1,000 runs by the end of May and finished the season with 2,713 runs at 77.51
Damian D'Oliveira (Worcestershire batsman): I asked Graeme, "What's it doing?" He replied: "Absolutely nothing." Graham Rose bowled one on off stump, it moved away and I nicked it. "That's the only ball that's done anything," he said. I told him where to go.
Worcestershire were in trouble at 132 for 5 when Steve Rhodes joined Hick. The wicketkeeper made 56 in a stand of 265.
Vic Marks (Somerset spinner): The Worcestershire innings was slowgoing and the ball was doing a bit. At 132 for 5 you were thinking, 300 all out at worst.
Hick: I just had a go at the ball if it was in the right area and the boundaries are fairly short at Taunton.
Peter Roebuck (Somerset captain, writing in Wisden 1989): One mistake from Hick and they'd have been all out for a poor score. He took guard and began hitting the ball in order to score runs. He did not say much and yet he was neither distant nor aloof. I never saw Walter Hammond bat but I imagine he was something like this - authoritative, commanding, civil and durable. Once or twice his leg shots were lifted but they were hit with a power that was efficient rather than savage and they thundered through or over the field.
Neil Burns (Somerset wicketkeeper): They were the longest two days of my life but I had the best seat in the house and I didn't have to pay for it. It was like two games were going on. The ball was nipping about and people were nicking it in one but he was batting immaculately and hitting everything for four in the other. Anything just a little too full he drove straight, anything too straight he clipped through the leg-side clinically. He sits back for a period of time but then sits on bowlers in a way they can't come back from. It was exceptional.
Marks: It was utterly mechanical and I don't mean that dismissively. He clinically scored 70 a session. He was more orthodox than Kevin Pietersen. If you bowled a goodlength ball he would play it back respectfully, although he was clinical on anything off-line. There were few big shots and he didn't take too many liberties until the late 200s. He popped me over midon a couple of times, so I put a long-on back. Then he would pop it down there for one. This was before he was tarnished by Test cricket and I was acknowledging he was in charge, cutting my losses and trying to get the other batsmen out, but they were giving him amazingly obdurate support.
|They were the longest two days of my life but I had the best seat in the house and I didn't have to pay for it. It was like two games were going on Neil Burns|
Steve Rhodes (Worcestershire wicketkeeper): It was a marvellous innings. He puts the bad ball away more efficiently than anyone. I just tried to blunt the attack. It was a pleasure to run his runs for him. I played only one shot in anger and it got me out.
Phil Neale (Worcestershire captain): Taunton suited Graeme because straight-hitting is his forte but he didn't seem to be blasting it. It was sensible batting.
Hick was dropped in the gully on 148 - then there were no more chances until he went past 300. He reached 179 at stumps on the first day.
Rhodes: Hicky's not a big drinker but a group of us went for a Chinese meal and he had a pint of lager. Peter Roebuck came in with Graham Rose and joked the booze could make him succumb early next day.
Neale: The overnight break at halfway in his innings suited him as he could start again refreshed.
Burns: He worked very hard to get back in as there was still freshness in the pitch; his batsmanship from 200 to 300 was exceptional and showed what a magnificent player he is.
Roebuck: Watching him, you cannot tell if he is on 10 or 210. He simply carries on. His game is as pure as a punched hole. It is this that frightens bowlers.
Rhodes: He went from 288 to 300 with straight sixes off Colin Dredge - phenomenal shots.
Hick: I asked Phil what the plan was on day two and he just told me to see how it went. Once I reached 300 I just kept on having a go. I was pleased to pass Worcestershire's record score [Glenn Turner's 311 v Warwickshire in 1982] but I didn't know about Hanif Mohammad's record of 499.
Neale: The game-plan was always to get as many as we could, as fast as we could. We were going to declare earlier but I delayed it until Graeme reached 300 - he then got to 400 so quickly we still had time to bowl on that second evening. I think he always knew I'd call it a day at 400. I was aware of various records but the team objective was always the most important thing.
Burns: After Hick reached 300 we had one or two guys carrying niggles and one or two had been over-bowled. He was looking to hit everything for four and it was a bit like a benefit match.
Marks: Reaching 300 gave him the license to cut loose. The ball was flying everywhere. Watching him running between the wickets was superb - not just for his runs but scampering the third for his partner. He was fit and utterly selfless.
D'Oliveira: He received great support from Rhodes, Phil Newport (27) and Richard Illingworth (31 not out). It was brilliant batting with Graeme.
Marks: I knew Worcestershire weren't particularly aware of Archie MacLaren's record (his 424 for Lancashire at Taunton in 1895 was the then highest Championship score). I rather grumpily pointed out, "Someone has got 400 here before you know." It would have taken him next to no time to reach 425, and the match barely got to day four as it was ...
Neale: I was also skipper when Glenn Turner scored 311 not out - he didn't mind me declaring because he had blisters!
Hick: Obviously I had more technically difficult innings but it was just great to have such a long time at the crease; you don't normally get that long.
Roebuck: He used a bat so broad that bowlers felt as if they were trying to knock down a tank with a pea-shooter.
Neale: I followed the old adage to chuck the ball to the man who had also scored all the runs. Hick removed Nigel Felton and Richard Harden that evening and took three in the match as Worcestershire won by an innings.
Burns: It's very sad that the great player he was becoming in the late 1980s didn't go on to dominate in Tests. West Indies came hard at him in 1991 and maybe that was a difficult experience to come back from. One irony was that we played Worcestershire in the return a few weeks later and he scored 8 and 11.
Neale: That was obviously Graeme's highest score in my time at Worcestershire but it probably wasn't his best innings. He was dropped a few times. The best I saw him bat was that 212 at Old Trafford; Lancashire had prepared a turner in April and Graeme was the only batsman who hit the ball in front of square.
Hick: At that stage it was my biggest achievement. Maybe it still is.