Middlesex lifted by Ramprakash

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The Independent Online

The England discard Mark Ramprakash continued his rich run of form to strike a fluent 84 for the bottom club, Middlesex, on the first day of their Second Division match against Essex at Lord's yesterday.

The England discard Mark Ramprakash continued his rich run of form to strike a fluent 84 for the bottom club, Middlesex, on the first day of their Second Division match against Essex at Lord's yesterday.

On a rain-affected day, the hosts - whose only first-class victory this season came against Essex at Chelmsford - closed on 214 for 5 with the seamer Ashley Cowan being the pick of the visitors' attack with 3 for 54.

Middlesex, playing their first County Championship match at Lord's since June, were quickly in trouble after being put in to bat on an easy-paced pitch.

Mike Roseberry was out for a duck in the third over with just a leg-bye on the board when Cowan found good bounce to have the opener well taken by Danny Law at third slip. Six overs later, Middlesex'sAustralian captain, Justin Langer, was comprehensively yorked for five by Cowan to leave his side struggling at a precarious 21 for 2.

Ramprakash, fresh from his two centuries against Sussex in the previous game, and Andrew Strauss led the Middlesexrecovery as they put on 95 for the third wicket in just 22 overs.

Ramprakash, in particular, was quick to punish some loose bowling from Danny Law and his rapid half-century, whichincluded seven fours, came from only 69 balls.

Strauss played a positive supporting role with some well-timed strokes off his legs until he played on to Andrew McGarry for 45, the ball spinning back on to his stump from a defensive push.

Ramprakash continued in confident fashion with some punishing strokes as he lifted his first-class aggregate to 530 runs from his last six innings. But then he followed a Cowan away-swinger and was neatly taken low down by the Essex wicketkeeper Barry Hyam.

The young Irishman Ed Joyce, playing in only his second match for Middlesex, took 43 deliveries to reach double figures before being run out two balls later by Stephen Peters, which reduced the home side to 166 for 5.

Nash and Ben Hutton avoided any further loss and they ground out an unbroken 48 for the sixth wicket from 30 overs to leave the match evenly poised.

* The Australian fast bowler Brett Lee has been cleared of a suspect bowling action by the International Cricket Council.

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