Ramprakash's long vigil rescues Surrey

Sussex 429 and 69-2 Surrey 355
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Mark Ramprakash'S 65th first-class century dragged Surrey out of trouble here yesterday and once more convinced their coach, Keith Medlycott, of his international class.

Ramprakash dug in to rescue the County Championship leaders from 126 for 6 in reply to second-placed Sussex's 429. His 104, which took 225 balls and more than five hours, was the foundation of Surrey's bid to save the follow-on and keep their noses ahead of the closest rivals for their Championship crown.

Ramprakash added 89 for the seventh wicket with Martin Bicknell and then 84 for the ninth with Saqlain Mushtaq, who made 68. Surrey eventually conceded a first-innings lead of 74 after the last four wickets had put on 229.

On an increasingly dreary third day, Sussex's second innings had reached 69 for 2 before bad light wiped out the last 37 overs.

According to Medlycott, Ramprakash was instrumental in Surrey's revival. "I would say that of all the hundreds we have got this year, this one is the best of the bunch," he said.

"In terms of application and attitude, it is an outstanding effort. If you take into account the situation of the game and how badly we needed someone to dig in, I think he played fantastically well."

It left Medlycott in no doubt that the 33-year-old should still be considered by the England selectors if they decide that the middle order needs reinforcing after the dismal showing on the first day of the Lord's Test.

Ramprakash has not played for his country since the winter of 2001-02. Medlycott said: "I don't think there is anybody in the country who seriously thinks Mark Ramprakash is suddenly an average player, that he is washed-up or that he could not get selected for England again. He is a high-quality player, and anybody who watched this innings would acknowledge he is someone with the class to play at the top level."

Surrey have benefited from Ramprakash's prolific run-scoring since his move from Middlesex at the start of the 2001 season, and Medlycott admitted they would have to overcome mixed feelings if they were to lose one of their most reliable batsmen to England.

"In a way it is great news for us that he is available to do it for us," Medlycott said. "But make no mistake, we would love to see him get back into the international fold."

Somerset were bowled out for 56 by Durham in the Second Division of the Championship at Chester-le-Street, losing by 318 runs. It was the lowest total of the season in the four-day competition, with the Pakistan fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar wreaking havoc with 4 for 9 and receiving support from Neil Killeen, who captured 4 for 30. Earlier, Shoaib had taken 4 for 39 and Vince Wells 4 for 16 as Somerset's were dismissed for 139 in the first innings.