GRAEME Hick compiled a masterly 134 to deny Sussex victory as Worcestershire fought back courageously on the final day of their Championship game at Horsham.

Worcestershire were also in-debted to a timely downpour as they were hanging on at 255-9 -- a slender lead of 78 -- when the players were forced off shortly after tea.

The visitors, resuming 84 behind on 93-4 having been made to follow on 177 in arrears, were superbly led by England batsman Hick who thwarted Sussex for four hours four minutes in making his eighth century against them. He extended his fifth wicket stand with David Leatherdale to 73 before wicket keeper Steve Rhodes joined him to add 80.

Hick, in only his fourth Championship innings after returning from World Cup duty, had struck 19 fours and two sixes off 222 balls which ended 15 minutes before tea.

Richard Montgomerie swooped to hold a smart left-handed catch at slip after Hick edged an attempted hook off the bowling of skipper Chris Adams.

Left-arm swing bowler Jason Lewry, who finished with match figures of 9-159 on his comeback following a shoulder operation, raised Sussex's hopes by bowling Stuart Lampitt for a duck as he drove loosely.

Worcestershire were then 243-7, 66 on and medium-pacer Robin Martin-Jenkins then had Richard Illingworth brilliantly caught in the gully by Aussie Michael Di Venuto also for nought.

Lewry grabbed his third wicket of the innings shortly after tea when Phil Newport pushed forward defensively and was trapped leg before for a duck.

Rhodes, who faced 93 balls in compiling 29 not out, was in company with last man Alamgir Sheriyar when the heavens opened and this stopped what would have been a tense finish.

The final day had begun in bright sunshine after a 40-minute delay, and Leatherdale enjoyed a slice of luck in the fourth over when he edged James Kirtley to first slip where Montgomerie dropped a straightforward catch after getting both hands to the ball.

Leatherdale went on to give Hick valuable support in their stand, which lasted for 25 overs, before Leatherdale fell to Kirtley in the second over after lunch.

The Yorkshire-born batsman had occupied 67 deliveries and hit four fours in making 28 when he went on the back foot to Kirtley and has bowled by a full length ball.

Sussex (first inns) 301-9 dec (Peirce 75, Montgomerie 66, Di Venuto 64; Sheriyar 4-102).

Worcs (first inns) 124 (Lewry 6-63).

WORCS - second inns

(Overnight 93-4)

Hick c Montgomerie b Adams 134

Leatherdale b Kirtley 28

Rhodes not out 29

Lampitt b Lewry 0

Illingworth c Di Venuto b Jenkins 0

Newport lbw b Lewry 0

Sheriyar not out 0

Extras: 38

Total (9 wkts) 255

Fall: 1-0, 2-57, 3-88, 4-88, 5-161, 6-241, 7-243, 8-248, 9-255.

Bowling: Lewry 19-2-96-3; Kirtley 23-6-50-1; Martin-Jenkins 15.2-3-61-2; Robinson 18-7-38-2; Adams 3-1-5-1.