RAMPRAKASH NOTCHES UP THIRD TON by Marcus Hook
Surrey 501-7d v Worcestershire 55-0.
On a generally sunny if breezy day at the Oval, Surrey stockpiled five-hundred runs then inserted their demoralised opponents, Worcestershire, for an hour in the hope of preying on their fatigue. However, the Brown Caps' inability to force a breakthrough in sixteen overs and uncertain weather likely today means that the prospects of either side scoring a victory in this match are beginning to look doubtful.
The home side's total of 501 for seven included an exhilarating stand between Ramprakash and Butcher that realised 156 in 37 overs for the third wicket, not to mention two eye-catching cameos from Clarke and Benning to take the innings to a crescendo.
Not for the first time since his move south in 2001, it was Mark Ramprakash who played the central innings - his third championship hundred in successive matches. It included just one blemish when, with his score on 82, he might have been caught by Phil Jaques, at gully, off the bowling of Zaheer Khan in the first over with the new ball.
In just over three hours the former Middlesex man struck 118 from 163 balls, including nineteen fours and a straight six off Ray Price's left-arm twirlers. It was the eighty-second first-class century of Ramprakash's career and his seventh against Worcestershire; who are now equal first, along with Sussex, in terms of the opponents who have yielded to him the most over the last twenty seasons.
After Newman departed, caught at second slip, in the eighth over of the day, Jonathan Batty and Ramprakash held a relatively risk-free vigil until the latter had finally managed to ease himself in. But it was just as Ramprakash located the middle of his bat that Batty threw away his wicket by driving his namesake and former team-mate straight to mid-off.
Mark Butcher overcame a couple of early scares, when he was put down in the slips and could have been run out after being sent back, to make an well-organized 74.
Surrey's third wicket pair reached their respective milestones in the same over, the ninety-sixth of the innings, bowled by Kabir Ali. Butcher eased the England one-day player through backward point for four to reach his fifty in 101 deliveries. Moments later, Ramprakash glanced the 26-year-old seamer fine to post the only hundred of the innings off 148 balls.
Three wickets then fell in the space of seven overs. Ramprakash was bowled playing no stroke to one that Ali nipped back off the seam. The reintroduction of spin saw Butcher caught at slip off an indeterminate stroke and Alistair Brown superbly taken, in the same position, in the very next over.
The clatter of wickets gave way to a classy, if brief, innings from Rikki Clarke, who hoisted both spinners for sixes before being bowled immediately after having been hit on the right forearm. James Benning, whose purple patch shows no signs of abating, then continued the onslaught with a 54-ball 52. But, like Clarke, he was out trying to give the bowler the charge.