Graeme Hick hit a joint record 116 to lead Worcestershire to a 21-run win over Northants.
Wardown Park has seen some high-octane cricket in its time. Mark Ilott once took nine for 19 for Essex, while the window frames on the pavilion still bear the imprints of one of Allan Lamb's more ferocious assaults. Yesterday Graeme Hick joined an exclusive club by belting an imperious undefeated 116 from 65 balls. It was the highest score in the brief history of this competition, later equalled by Ian Thomas of Glamorgan.
Only two players had previously reached three figures in the Twenty20 Cup. Ian Harvey made 100 not out for Gloucestershire against Warwickshire last year and on Friday Andrew Symonds belted 112 for Kent against Middlesex. No matter that Northants lost: after six years without any county cricket the locals - around 3,000 of them - presumably felt this was worth the wait.
At the height of the devastation Hick lifted the off-spin of Graeme Swann for three successive sixes. This was batting as it was surely meant to be: free and easy, violent yet beautiful.
In all, Hick smashed 11 fours and six sixes and scored two-thirds of Worcestershire's runs. Between them his team-mates managed 47 runs off 56 balls, hitting three fours and two sixes. The next highest score in a total of 173 for five was Andrew Hall's 16. To call it a one-man show was to do it scant justice.
"For health and safety reasons, please stay behind the boundary ropes," warned the PA man at the start. Later he referred to the safety rope, which felt more appropriate while Hick was showing off his muscular cover-drive. But when Hick got stuck into the slow bowlers, the advice sounded dubious. The safest people on the ground were the Northants fielders.
Big scores at club venues bring their own problems. The scoreboard at the Luton Town and Indians club has no provision for a player making three figures, so after reaching his 100 off 60 balls, Hick found himself on 01. Northants must have thought they had woken up from a bad dream. But Carl Greenidge's final over cost 25 and reality bit once more.
A black cloud threatened to rescue Northants but a revised target of 102 off 11 overs was just too testing. As wickets fell to a series of skied catches, it was a surprise that no one was timed out: incoming batsmen have 30 seconds to take guard after the fall of a wicket.
The nadir of the Northants reply came when David Leatherdale was denied a hat-trick only because the wicketkeeper David Pipe failed to gather a thin edge off Ben Phillips.
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