Cricket: Ramprakash revels in extra day

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The Independent Online
Middlesex 525-7 dec; Essex 180-3

MARK RAMPRAKASH played an innings of 123 not out in almost six hours that only a four-day match would have allowed. It was an excellent illustration of how the extra day should help the development of middle-order batsmen.

Ramprakash had gone slowly on the first day, as if not quite trusting himself, and although his runs did not come much faster yesterday, there was a greater certainty about his batting.

There were some lovely strokes in between long periods of watchfulness. His early strokes were mostly through the off side off the front foot. Later in the morning, a half-sweep deposited John Childs over the midwicket boundary for six, a shot which broke the windscreen of his own car.

Another off drive, against Peter Such, brought Ramprakash to his hundred, and this was yet another innings which left one wondering if he will ever be able to reproduce this sort of result for England.

Mark Feltham and John Emburey both gave useful assistance as the Middlesex score passed 500. Extras was another notable contributor with 67, of which no-balls weighed in with 52.

When it was Essex's turn to bat, Graham Gooch produced a number of glorious off and cover drives, which were at the same time decisive and beautiful. While John Stephenson hit his half-volleys straight to the fielders, Gooch dismissed them into the gaps.

With Angus Fraser, Neil Williams and Richard Johnson all injured, Middlesex's seam bowling was not as threatening as it might have been. Kevin Shine found some pace, however, and once caused Nick Knight to duck into a short one which hit him a resounding blow on the helmet.

There was then an absorbing duel between Gooch and Philip Tufnell, who began with a maiden to the left-handed Knight. In Tufnell's next over, Gooch square cut for four, and then pushing from the crease, survived an earsplitting lbw appeal.

In his third over, Gooch drove him straight for six and then, for good measure, cover drove him for four. Later, there were a couple of impish late cuts in what was the best piece of cricket in the day. Gooch and Knight, who easily outscored his captain, added 125 delightful runs in 33 overs before Knight drilled Tufnell into mid- on's stomach.