This season for Mark Ramprakash is turning rapidly into his own Groundhog Day. The Surrey batsman has now failed with five attempts to nail down the hundredth hundred of his first class career.
Today he lasted a shade over an hour before getting an absolute beauty from Charl Willoughby which the left-handed paceman slid across the right-handed Ramprakash, who edged it to wicketkeeper Craig Kieswetter.
Just as in his four previous Championship innings since reaching the 99-mark, an early departure of a Surrey opener had brought Ramprakash to the crease prematurely and in less than ideal conditions.
Today it was the turn of Surrey Championship debutant Matthew Spriegel – so new that his name was misspelled on the scorecard – to lose his wicket early and bring Ramprakash to the crease.
At least Spriegel gave plenty of indication that he is a talent worth nurturing. If his start was nervy, so was that of Scott Newman, the latter though managed to contain himself until he began to see the ball better.
But a couple of Spriegel’s shots were superb, on, an off-drive so sweetly timed and placed that it beat mid-off even though the fielder was almost on the line of the shot and earned the batsman the first of his four boundaries.
But it was Ramprakash that the sizeable crowd at this delightful ground had come to see. He was off the mark with a single to third man off his first ball, but thereafter he had to work for his runs.
Charl Willoughby and Ben Phillips in particular posed problems in the overcast conditions, and a little later in the morning Steffan Jones also troubled the batsmen.
Ramprakash survived two confident appeals for leg before from South African quickie Alfonso Thomas before he had really settled in, but Newman was getting into his stride at the other end.
But Ramprakash, far from looking nervous, just appeared to be prepared to dig in. He had been in for 55 minutes before he reached double figures, with a lovely drive through extra cover off Jones for his first boundary, a second followed in the same over, this time square on the off side. But shortly after Willoughby struck and another opportunity had gone.
Meanwhile Newman played and missed a few times but also connected with the ball enough to take him to within four runs of what should be a deserved half century.