Cricket: Ramprakash in control with a century

reports from Lord's Middlesex 337-5 v Sussex
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Father Time has a new home at Lord's atop the Mound stand scoreboard. He has not gone far, but if the aspect is different, the gaze, despite being broken by a Mark Ramprakash century, is as impenetrable and uncritical as ever. Just as well considering the limp display by most of the Sussex bowlers as Middlesex rattled up 337 for 5 by the close.

These days a Mark Ramprakash century usually brings about two responses. From his supporters, comes the clarion call for another chance to play for England, while from his critics the resounding snort that they have seen it all before, and that the temperamental flaws that obviously exist, run too deep to be exposed by county opposition. This was his 35th first- class century. Tellingly, perhaps, 32 of them have been for Middlesex.

And yet he appears to improve year upon year and this was his second century in successive innings having already notched one up as captain of the Rest at Edgbaston two weeks ago. It is a process that appears to have been developed through controlling the turmoil and judgements that come from within, rather than fine-tuning the technique that has long been the envy of his peers.

In fact had Ramprakash already been in Michael Atherton's plans for the summer, it would have been difficult to see how he could have summoned up the desire he did yesterday against Sussex. The county's recent tumult being matched by a confusion on the pitch that saw them use nine bowlers - at least half appeared to be part-time - in an attempt to justify their decision to put Middlesex into bat on a green-tinged pitch.

Sussex could counter that apart from Ramprakash's knock and an injury in the morning session to their fast bowler Vasbert Drakes it was the correct decision. Certainly Paul Weekes, who was dropped at second slip without scoring, did not last long, while Jacques Kallis, Middlesex's overseas signing from South Africa, lazily drove to cover after blunting the opening salvo.

Gatting, in his dotage as a player but newly reborn as a selector, did not last long either, tamely chopping on to Amer Khan, a leg-spinner he will have faced a thousand times in the nets at the Nursery End. Gatting needs nine more first-class hundreds to notch up a century of centuries, a feat that grows ever more distant for this great club servant.

However, by the time Jason Pooley had lost his middle stump playing back to Mark Robinson, Ramprakash was well entrenched and striking the ball with smooth and powerful assurance, bringing up his 100 just before tea.

Having dominated play until that point, he then decided to retrench, allowing Keith Brown to take control with a series of snappy cut shots. The pair had added 136 in 39 overs when Ramprakash edged one of Rajesh Rao's dolly mixtures to Peter Moores down the leg side. Ignominy does not come any better than that.

Cricket, page 26