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Thursday, 17 February, 2000, 10:46 GMT
England's man of mystery

Hick Graeme Hick's 87 not out was an innings of quality and precision

BBC News Online's Thrasy Petropoulos ponders the ongoing mystery that is Graeme Hick, perhaps England's greatest underachiever.

Whatever he achieves in cricket, Graeme Hick will always be remembered as the international man of mystery.

A player good enough to score a hundred first-class hundreds, the best of them 405 not out, and dominate more than a generation of county cricket; but also a man whose achievements for England have been memorable more for their failings than for the brief moments of light.

Hick Hick's international career will be better remembered for his failings
Bulawayo on Wedenesday was one of his brightest - not for weight of runs scored (87 not out) but for its meaning to him as a man and as a cricketer.

One of the lesser known anomalies of Hick's career has been his failings against Zimbabwe, the country of his birth.

In six previous innings spread over eight years against them, he had managed 78 runs, 64 of which came in one game in Sydney in 1993.

Two of those failures were in South Africa where he had managed 62 runs in six international innings.

Add to that that it was his first outing for England in Zimbabwe and that it was in front of his parents, John and Eve, who see him play only very occasionally. It might not have amounted to a trial by fire from the likes of Ambrose and Walsh, but the ingredients for freezing in the headlights were there in abundance.

Centre stage

For once Hick's response was to revel in taking centre stage and play one of his most responsible and perceptive innings.

When the drizzle started and the clouds grew darker and darker, Hick would study his Duckworth/Lewis chart at the end of each over.

hick Hick finished the game with a six
The moment England dropped behind the run-rate required, he and Ealham launched a calculated assault on Dirk Viljoen, hitting the left-arm spinner for a four and a six respectively in one over.

The rate was back where England needed it and they were able to cruise home, eventually with nine balls to spare.

Perhaps the most telling moment came at the end of the game. An innings characterised by its clinical efficiency (when three wickets fell in the space of eight overs threatening the familiar middle-order collapse, Hick made sure his was not one of them by restricting himself to eight singles), Hick ended the match with a six.

At last it was Hick the showman, expressing himself publicly in the only way he knows how.

Henry Olonga, the dreadlocked slayer of England in Cape Town just a matter of weeks ago, came in and bowled a full length.

Down came Hick's bat and the ball soared over long on. The job was done, Hick turned on his heels to the England dressing room and his watching parents, and waved his bat in celebration. There was more than one battle that had just been won.

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Zimbabwe v England

See also:
16 Feb 00 |  England on Tour
Hick's victory six
15 Feb 00 |  England on Tour
England desperate to finish on high note
14 Feb 00 |  England on Tour
Victory vindicates captain Cronje
13 Feb 00 |  England on Tour
South Africa defeat sorry England
13 Feb 00 |  England on Tour
Hussain hails 'world class' winners
12 Feb 00 |  England on Tour
Adams misses tour finale
Links to other England on Tour stories are at the foot of the page.