Cricket: Ramprakash takes great leap forward

COUNTY CHAMPIONSHIP: Middlesex find form at last but Warwickshire made to work hard; HENRY BLOFELD reports from Lord's Middlesex 322-5 v Yorkshire
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The Independent Online
Mark Ramprakash took a big step forward in his personal rehabilitation course after his unhappy winter's tour of South Africa when he made a convincing 134 on a glorious day against Yorkshire.

He was not in quite the brilliant form of late last summer when hundreds flowed from his bat against all-comers in Championship cricket, but it will have made him feel much better.

Ramprakash is only 26 with any amount of cricket left in him, and all he can realistically do now is to put his head down, work hard at his game and fill his bag with as many hundreds as he can. This will rebuild his confidence and maybe help him to eradicate the faults which have made Test cricket such a problem for him.

His innings was the centrepiece of an entertaining day's play as Middlesex tried collectively to put their dismal early-season batting form behind them. They were helped by a pitch where the ball came on to the bat, and there was also some bounce and an encouragingly close boundary on the Grandstand side of the ground. It was one of the pitches relaid in the autumn of 1992.

Yorkshire bowled well before lunch, when there was still a touch of moisture in the surface, but without much luck. Paul Weekes soon played forward to Peter Hartley with his bat away from his pad and was caught behind. Jason Harrison took his place and led a charmed life outside the off-stump, especially off the back foot. One lost count of the number of times he played and missed.

Jason Pooley played most of the early strokes before mysteriously leaving alone a ball from Darren Gough which hit the middle of his off-stump. One could sense the uncertainty within Ramprakash early on, almost as if he did not fully trust himself to go through with his strokes. Then, driving and cutting and timing the ball nicely off his legs, he began to find the boundary and each four did him a power of good.

Harrison produced one or two lovely strokes of his own in among long periods of defence before edging a lifter from Craig White to the wicketkeeper. He has plenty of work to do on and outside the off-stump. Mike Gatting looked in good form and pulled and cut White for three fours in an over before playing back to Chris Silverwood with little footwork and edging the ball into his stumps. Ramprakash's hundred came next from 182 balls when he played Silverwood off his toes through mid-wicket for his 17th four.

With his frighteningly awful stance, John Carr helped Ramprakash put on 83 before Ramprakash was bowled, probably off his pads, playing across the line of Hartley. Carr went on to pass 50 and, with Keith Brown, took Middlesex to 300.

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