Cricket: Victory sweet for Ramprakash

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Glamorgan 308 & 260 Middlesex 256 and 314-1 Middlesex win by nine wickets

CHAMPIONS Glamorgan may be, but not for much longer on this showing. As title defences go theirs is beginning to look a little flabby. By the premature end of what everyone had expected would be a close finish, they were not just being whipped, but positively flogged into abject submission as Middlesex made the highest score of the match for a deserved and ultimately straightforward win.

The last time Middlesex had scored more than 300 in the fourth innings for victory in the championship was four years ago against Surrey at The Oval. And it is no mean feat. The last time Glamorgan had beaten Middlesex in a championship match at Lord's, for heaven's sake, was back in 1954.

But yesterday Justin Langer and Middlesex captain Mark Ramprakash made it all look so elementary. Admittedly they had huge slices of luck as Glamorgan's concentration lapsed at critical moments during the day, but that did not detract from the quality of this gifted pair's performance, which provided the sparse crowd with some wonderful strokeplay.

For Ramprakash the performance was a double delight. The ease of the victory more than vindicated his decision to insert Glamorgan on winning the toss.

Runs had had to be coaxed from the pitch on the previous three days so the prospect of meeting any target on the final day of a wicket that was expected to turn seemed remote; in fact there was a veritable flood tide as Ramprakash and his Australian partner put on an unbroken 276 for the second wicket - a record for the county against Glamorgan.

The second reason for some private celebrating by the England batsman came when he reached three figures for the third time in four championship innings, after three hours with 18 boundaries. Of all his 43 first-class hundreds this 128 not out was a landmark score because it completed for Ramprakash the coveted set of scoring a 100 against the other 17 first- class counties. Mike Gatting, his predecessor as captain, managed the feat when he scored his 90th first-class 100 against Durham in 1996.

As for the brilliant Langer, he is yet another in a long success story of overseas players at Lord's - with the exception of the New Zealander, Dion Nash. Langer's five-hour unbeaten 153 - his third century in consecutive matches - took his total number of runs in nine innings to 765 at an average of 127.5. It need not have been so if the Glamorgan wicketkeeper, Adrian Shaw, had not been wrong-footed by an inside edge when Langer had made eight, or again when he had scored 41. The gods were not smiling upon Shaw that time either, for it was his slow, lobbed throw, when the Middlesex pair went for a quick single, which gave Langer time to slide home safely.

Ramprakash too survived a couple of chances; once when on 44 Michael Powell started forward too late for a miss-hit shot to cover and the ball dropped just short of the frustrated fielder, and when he had reached 78 there was another run-out opportunity but the ball bounced awkwardly and Robert Croft could only fumble it. It was just not Glamorgan's day. But it certainly was Ramprakash's.