Graeme Hick during his 172 against West Indies to reach a total of 1,000 runs for the month of May    Getty Images
Graeme Hick during his 172 against West Indies to reach a total of 1,000 runs for the month of May Getty Images

Nobody had ever doubted Graeme Hick s potential. Brought up in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), he was good enough to make it to Zimbabwe s World Cup squad in 1983 at the age of 17. It is another story that he did not get to play a single match in the tournament.

He had made his debut for Worcestershire against Surrey in 1984, and had scored an impressive 82 not out in his only outing. He raced through the years, performing brilliantly every time 1,265 runs at 52.70 with 4 hundreds in 1985; 2,004 runs at 64.64 with 6 hundreds in 1986 (at 19 he became the youngest Worcestershire batsman to top 2,000 runs in a season, and became a Wisden Cricketer of the Year); and 1,879 runs at 52.19 with eight hundreds in 1987. He had topped the runs chart in the Championship in both 1986 (with 1,934 runs) and 1987 (with 1,868 runs).

MCC

Naturally, when the 1988 season began, there were a lot of expectations from Hick who had not even 21. He was selected to play for MCC against Nottinghamshire at Lord s. Both teams had strong sides, and after Nottinghamshire declared at 298 for 3, Hick came out to bat at 2 for 1.

Franklyn Stephenson was working up some speed, never hesitating to let loose a bouncer or two. Hick, however, walked out and counterattacked, scoring a rapid 61, before Mark Nicholas declared the innings closed at 159 for 7; Nottinghamshire declared at 139 for two, setting a target of 279. Hick scored 37, and time ran out with MCC on 222 for 5.

Match end-date: April 18

Hick s aggregate: 98

Lancashire

Worcestershire played at Old Trafford next. After Phil Neale decided to bat, Hick came out at 66 for 1 and launched himself into a strong bowling attack comprising of Paul Allott and Chris Matthews. He reached 48 by stumps on a rain-affected Day One, but tore the Lancashire attack the next day, scoring 212. Neale declared as Hick got out with the score on 409 for 7.

With the pitch providing turn, Hick was also called up to bowl, especially in the second innings. He took 1 for 8 in the first innings, and then bowled on, returning figures of 44-10-138-4 to bowl out Lancashire before the openers polished off the required runs.

Match end-date: April 25

Hick s aggregate: 310

Nottinghamshire

A home match against Nottinghamshire at New Road followed. Stephenson was fiery, as usual, and was ably supported by Kevin Cooper. Hick stood firm, though, scoring 86 as the hosts were bowled out for 290. Some quality bowling from Graham Dilley and Neal Radford meant that Nottinghamshire had to follow-on, and Hick scored 14 as Worcestershire chased down the 91 runs they needed.

Hick s April aggregate of 410 remained a Championship record until Ian Bell scored 480 in 2005.

Match end-date: April 30

Hick s aggregate: 410

Somerset

Somerset hosted Worcestershire s next match at Taunton, and it was here that the build-up for the 1,000-runs-by-May started. Hick walked out as Gordon Lord fell for 49 with the team score on 78 for 1. Before he was well-set, Worcestershire lost Tim Curtis, Damien D Oliveira, Neale, and Ian Botham (who was playing against his old county). The visitors were reeling at 132 for 5.

What followed was carnage. True, the wicket-keeper Steve Rhodes held fort with a defiant 56, but that was hardly of any consequence in a partnership of 265. The match was well into Day Two when Rhodes got out, only for Phil Newport to walk out.

Hick added 54 with Newport, and then an unbeaten 177 with Richard Illingworth, who contributed only 31. In the process Hick became only the second batsman to score a 400 in a Championship match (after Archie MacLaren s 424 at the same ground in 1895). Had Neale not declared at tea with Hick on 405 and Worcestershire on 628 for 7, Hick may have gone past MacLaren that day.

Peter Roebuck, leading Somerset in the match, wrote: “He never really gave Somerset a ghost of a chance until he’d passed 300. I never thought 300 could be written as if it were a staging-post. It takes me a month to score 300 runs.” Somerset surrendered meekly, losing by an innings and 214 runs. Hick returned match figures of 19-7-33-3 with his off-breaks.

Match-end date: May 9

Hick s aggregate: 815

Somerset, again

By the time Somerset came to return the favour at New Road, Hick was already followed by the media. The thousand-runs-in-May phenomenon was very likely to happen. This had happened only once since World War II when another Worcestershire cricketer, Glenn Turner, had achieved this in 1974.

Playing in front of a packed home crowd and the incessant clicking of cameras, Hick walked out to bat at 131 for 1, and walked back for 8. Somerset took an 87-run lead; Hick scored 11 in his second outing, and Somerset romped home by 9 wickets.

Match-end date: May 20

Hick s aggregate: 834

Leicestershire

The Leicestershire match at Grace Road began in a similar fashion. Curtis and Lord put up 103, and then Hick fell for 6. David Gower declared with Leicestershire 11 runs behind, and an injured Hick could not bat above 7. When he finally walked out, he was clean bowled by Chris Lewis for 7. The match was drawn.

Match-end date: May 24

Hick s aggregate: 847

West Indians

Hick now had potentially just a single match left against the touring West Indians. In the match at New Road, Viv Richards fielded a Test side including his four-pronged pace attack of Patrick Patterson, Courtney Walsh, Curtly Ambrose, and Ian Bishop.

With 153 to score from the match against such a deadly attack, nobody gave Hick a serious chance, especially when rain was predicted on Day Two. This was, after all, the most potent fast bowling attack in the world, and could be compared to any in the history of the sport.

Lord was cleaned up Patterson for a duck, and Hick walked out to join Curtis with not a single run on the board. Other batsmen might have been intimidated by the situation, the immense pressure, and the ferocity of the opposing attack. Not Hick.

Nor did he try to defend. He thrived on the aggression that was such a trademark of his batsmanship. There was a reason that Dilley had mentioned that Hick put an immense ‘psychological pressure on the bowlers, like Viv Richards or Javed Miandad .

The foursome was tamed. The booming drives flowed through the V. They bounced, but the 21-year old hooked and pulled with panache, and cut ferociously. He would be dismissed 11 times by Ambrose (he would average 16.72 in those matches) and eight times by Walsh (at an average of 15.37), but today he dominated both of them, as well as Patterson and Bishop. He would later be tagged by John Bracewell as a ‘flat-track bully , but not on this day. This was his day, and Hick made the most of it.

As Hick reached his hundred, the crowd took notice and waited eagerly for the landmark to happen. 110 passed, then 120, 130, 140… could he reach that magic figure of 153?

Running out of options, Richards had tried Carl Hooper and himself, but to no avail. 150 came up, and then the crowd went ballistic as Hick reached the thousand-run mark. He eventually finished with 172 not out at stumps, and fell on the same score the next morning after a 284-run partnership.

After a rain-washed Day Two, the matched petered out to a tame draw.

Match-end date: May 30

Hick s aggregate: 1,019

What followed?

Hick s performance in 1988 was one of the best ever by any batsman in the history of the Championship: he top-scored for the third consecutive time with 2,443 Championship runs; in the entire season he scored 2,713 runs at 77.51 with 10 hundreds to equal Turner s tally for most hundreds by an Worcestershire batsman in a season a record that still stands.

He was named Player of The Year by the Professional Cricketers Association and won the Walter Lawrence Trophy for the fastest hundred of the season (79 balls, against Surrey at The Oval). Above everything, he guided Worcestershire to their first Championship Title since 1974.

Brief scores:

Worcestershire 321 for 3 dec. (Graeme Hick 172, Tim Curtis 82) drew with West Indians 170 for 5 (Desmond Haynes 71, Viv Richards 50).

(Abhishek Mukherjee is a cricket historian and Senior Cricket Writer at CricketCountry. He thinks he can bowl decent leg-breaks in street cricket, and can be followed on Twitter @ovshake42)