Ramprakash battles to escape follow-on

Sussex 429 Surrey 212-6

Mark Ramprakash ground out a stoic half-century to keep Surrey alive in their top-of-the-table County Championship tie against Sussex yesterday.

At one stage, Surrey's reply faltered to 126 for 6 on a blameless Hove pitch. Ramprakash, recognising his survival might just be able to help the title favourites avoid the follow-on in a match they cannot afford to lose, was unbeaten on 74 at the end of the second day.

His 130-ball fifty provided only one half-chance - a well-struck cover-drive off Mushtaq Ahmed evading Matthew Prior's clutches - as he carried his team to 212 for 6.

At the close Surrey, who are attempting to win a fourth title in five years, were 68 runs short of their most immediate target but still two points to the good in the table as Sussex crank up the pressure.

The support Ramprakash needed was lacking in the top order and came instead from Martin Bicknell, with 42 not out, in an unbroken seventh-wicket stand of 86 which for 28 overs blunted the threat posed by Mushtaq's taxing leg-spin and a hard-working pace attack.

A day shorn of 14 overs by mid-morning rain had begun with James Ormond (4 for 106) taking three wickets for no runs as Sussex managed to add only 67 for their last six first-innings wickets.

Ormond dismissed Chris Adams, the Sussex captain, for no addition to his overnight 107, and Prior and Mark Davis for ducks in an initial 13-ball burst with the second new ball. Adams gloved the second ball of the day for a good catch down the leg side by Jonathan Batty and effectively gave himself out. The umpire Mark Benson later admitted he would have been unable to have come to the same decision.

Robin Martin-Jenkins (40), unbeaten on 12 last night, suddenly looked in danger of running out of partners. But the arrival of Mushtaq heralded a stream of boundaries, forcing the visiting captain, Adam Hollioake, into serious thought.

He reacted by replacing Ormond with Azhar Mahmood at the Cromwell Road end. But it was Bicknell who finally shifted Martin-Jenkins when he surprisingly bowled the all-rounder on the front-foot defence.

Surrey's reply was undermined when the first two wickets fell with the score on 32, with Ward leg before on the front foot to James Kirtley and his opening partner Batty falling to an outstanding overhead catch by wicketkeeper Tim Ambrose.

Graham Thorpe's studied determination came to little when an athletic, low catch by Davis at square-leg made the left-hander pay for failing to keep a well-timed clip at Martin-Jenkins on the ground.

Rikki Clarke was more culpable in falling to an aerial pull off the same bowler straight to Mushtaq at deep backward square, leaving Surrey facing an uphill task to avoid the follow-on.

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