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Cricket 2nd Test: Cork likes it hot, but Hick should get out of the kitchen; Jack Bannister on stark contrast at Lord's.

Hick did not come to the wicket at a point of crisis, but he soon prepared the way for one.

Dominic Cork's 28th Test match was Graeme Hick's 58th, but it proved one point. When it matters, Cork can and does come to the party. Hick never does.

A capacity crowd on Saturday watched both cricketers walk out to bat under the ultimate spotlight.

The West Indies were waiting, either to take a 2-0 lead in the five-match series or, to bow the knee and lose to make it 1-1 with hostilities to be resumed in early August. Hick could hardly have walked into a better match situation.

A score of 95 for two in the 37th over, with the matchwinning job half done, the ball now soft and Curtly and Courtney bowling from memory; all this provided the perfect opportunity to play the sort of match-winning innings that would have set up the Worcestershire captain to cement his place for the rest of the series and the coming winter tour of Pakistan.

Instead, he came in with an apparent game plan to throw the bat - but which only served to show an insecurity at Test level that is an embarrassment. He is a good enough batsman to work out his own salvation but, after 58 Tests and a list of comebacks approaching double figures, his time has come and gone, and the management might as well rip up his central contract and move on to someone else.

Will they? Doubtful, because of the faith in him shown by fellow Zimbabwean coach Duncan Fletcher, and the probability is he will score enough runs in the triangular one-day tournament for him to play in the next Test at Old Trafford. But even Fletcher must have been disconcerted by Hick's abject performance. He did not come to the wicket at a point of crisis, but he soon prepared the way for one.

The game and the series was there to be won and squared. All it needed was an ordinary innings to help Michael Atherton steer England home. Instead, the crowd was subjected to a frenetic effort from Hick that should finish his Test career. His game plan, with or without managerial consent, was to take on the West Indies pace attack.

Why? There is a world of difference between being positive and reckless. All he had to do was to block out the two big Cs, and help himself to an unbeaten 50 or so. Instead, he seemed to be wanted to be seen to playing a macho role, which led directly to the crisis situation in which Cork was plunged.

He could have been out several times; he was dropped at slip, played and missed more than once and got away with a horrible attempt at a hook last ball before tea. There were two men out for the catch, but he actually turned his head away as he half hit the ball. He had no idea where the ball was or where it was going, and he was lucky to get a perfect bi-section of the two deep fielders behind square.

The Derbyshire man has less talent, but the way he responded to the tensest situation imaginable would have delighted the late Bill Bowes, former England and Yorkshire fast bowler. 'Cricket is not just about arms and legs; it's also about head and heart.' That is not to say that Hick is afraid of anything, but Cork was able to show an abrasive approach that was immediately recognised and cheered by the 30,000 crowd.

Body language counts for a lot at Test level, and the more intense the heat in the Test match kitchen, the better Cork likes it. The hotter the temperature becomes, the less Hick seems to like it as he proved once too often for comfort on Saturday.

He is a man utterly at ease and in command of himself at county level, but at the beck and call of all and sundry when the bugle sounds in the Test arena. I happened to work with Geoffrey Boycott throughout the day, and he kept on saying that a battle of that sort was the biggest thrill those cricketers taking part would ever experience.

'Of course you want to win, but it's a privilege to be out there when the real bullets are flying. Just to take part is the best thing of all - to know there is a game to be won if you are good enough and have the nerve.'

Your correspondent wrote after the first day that Cork's first ball bouncer to Ambrose was a statement of intent. It should have been pay-back time on Saturday, but the Derbyshire man was so awash with adrenalin it seemed he could have batted without pads or gloves. It was fitting that he was presented with his Man of the Match award from his boyhood hero Ian Botham.

He would win any Man of the Season trophy, because that is what he is already after saving the summer for his country in his 83-minute occupation of centre stage on Saturday.
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Author:Bannister, Jack
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Jul 3, 2000
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