GRAEME Hick is confident Worcestershire's stay in the second division of the County Championship will be a brief one.

The County's draw against Essex on Saturday means a place in the top half of the County Championship is now out of reach and condemns them to Second Division cricket next season.

But Hick, who will take over from Tom Moody as captain next summer, believes Worcestershire have the talent to finish in the top three and win promotion at the first attempt.

"We know what's gone wrong this season," he said. "The fact that we have the lowest number of batting bonus points tells its own story.

"But weve got some very good young players who are improving all the time and we will also have Australian paceman Glenn McGrath next year.

"I expect us to finish in the top three and win promotion at the first attempt."

After a season of under-achievement with the bat, second division cricket for Worcestershire has been on the cards for some time.

But a century from Hick in each innings of the match at Chelmsford, especially his 150 in the second, kept their slim hopes of clinching a place in the top flight alive.

However, after acting skipper Hick declared at Worcestershires overnight total of 365-9 to set Essex 371 for victory, those hopes were soon dashed.

Opener Paul Grayson saw to that with a century, although the capture of three wickets in 22 balls for 11 runs shortly after tea did revive them.

By then, however, Worcestershire were unable to us their most effective weapon, Alamgir Sheriyar.

Umpire David Constant had disqualified the left-arm paceman from the bowling for running down the pitch during his follow through.

Sheriyar had been banned shortly before lunch and it was left to veteran seamer Phil Newport and rookie paceman Duncan Catterall to try and bowl the visitors to victory.

Catterall, who was playing in his first Championship match of the season and had posted a career best 60 in Worcestershire's second innings, claimed Grayson (105) and Nasser Hussain (64) to make important inroads.

Thereafter, Essex, with victory beyond them, put up the shutters and when the match was halted with five overs remaining, they were 265-4.