At Centurion in 1995, Graeme Hick, England’s great white hope produced seven hours of ‘hammer time’ against a strong South African bowling attack before the heavens opened up.
England’s first match in South Africa for more than 30 years, and Centurion Park’s debut as a Test match ground, what should have been a joyous celebration in Gauteng Province will be remembered primarily for the gallons of water that washed out two-thirds of the contest.
However, for Graham Hick – returning to the continent of his birth for the first time in the white of England – and for fans of the mercurial Rhodesian, it will also be recalled as a highlight in a fluctuating career.
Having averaged more than 50 against the touring West Indians the previous summer, Hick continued his rich rein of form, first defying then dominating a South African attack containing Allan Donald and 22-year-old Shaun Pollock.
On a lively pitch, Hick entered the fray with his side at 64-3. With Donald and, particularly, Pollock (bowling second change in his debut Test) looking to intimidate him, he was treated to a barrage of short-pitched balls.
Hick, however, was not going to be cowed and once he found the pace of the pitch, anything short was expertly dispatched to the fence, many of his 25 fours hooked expertly off his nose. With the ever-reliable Mike Atherton digging in at the other end, he progressed serenely to perhaps the best of his six Test centuries, and by the time Pollock, the pick of South Africa’s bowlers, had him trapped LBW for 141, England had gained the upper hand.
Hick did not hit the same heights again during a series that England lost 1-0 and, arguably, during the rest of a stop-start international career, but (even as a prelude to a piss down) this innings was hard to beat. Asked for his take on Hick’s masterclass, Allan Donald later admitted that the South African attack had been “hammered”. No mean feat, then or now.
First published in 2009.