Ramprakash sweeps to record

Middlesex 370 and 74-0 Surrey 568
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The Independent Online

While Surrey certainly took a grip on affairs here yesterday, it could not be described as a stranglehold; not after the way they were made to struggle to score. They needed rapid runs, but Middlesex's bowlers and fielders would not oblige.

And, if the weather follows suit today, that would be it as far as a Surrey victory goes. But as frustrating as things were collectively for the Championship leaders, individually there were things to celebrate.

Top of that list came Mark Ramprakash, whose sudden departure from Middlesex before the start of the 2001 season caught everyone, including Surrey, on the hop. This was his first Championship match back at the place that had been his cricketing home and temple since the age of nine, and he marked the occasion appropriately by scoring a century.

It was the 63rd of his career, but of far greater significance was that it was his first against Middlesex, making him the first English batsman to score a hundred against all 18 first-class counties.

Ramprakash said that he had been unaware of the landmark, but he most certainly heard the jeers from a knot of unhappy Middlesex fans that greeted his entrance on Saturday and his exit yesterday.

"The jeers spurred me on," said Ramprakash, who was at the crease for more than five hours before falling to a fantastic catch by Ben Hutton at second slip. "They definitely made me more determined."

He had been steeling himself for his return for a while, a fact borne out when he explained: "I have been wanting this game for a long time. I've been looking forward to playing at Lord's; it's a lovely ground."

Alec Stewart would probably share that view after scoring his fourth championship hundred of the season in successive innings to help Surrey gain a 198-run upper hand on a pitch that was getting noticeably slower.

Saqlain Mushtaq also had reason to regard Lord's with a kindly and generous eye after reaching his highest score for Surrey in his own inimitable fashion. He got off the mark with a flat-batted six over wide mid-off. His second scoring shot was another six, this time over extra cover.

He provided zany entertainment, but by the end of a long day the probability was that no one on the Surrey team was too happy, after the Middlesex openers Andrew Strauss and Sven Koenig had taken a sizeable chunk out of the first innings advantage.