Surrey 242-2 v Lancashire: Ramprakash batters Lancashire after Flintoff's early strike

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The Independent Online

For Lancashire, coming back here to this ground was cruel enough alone, so soon after the traumatic end to last season, when their endless quest for the title drew them into that heroic but ultimately futile last-day run chase.

Bad enough without finding Mark Ramprakash, their nemesis then, intent on lacing the flashbacks with an uncomfortable taste of reality. It was the relentless flow of boundaries from the maestro's bat that proved their undoing last September. Yesterday, as magnificent as ever in completing his 98th first-class century, the finest batsman in England simply carried on where he had left off.

His timing, in more than one sense, could not have been better, with Geoff Miller, England's new chairman of selectors, looking on as Andrew Flintoff's comeback from injury, encouraging though it was, was thoroughly overshadowed.

The Lancashire all-rounder, in his first competitive action since undergoing ankle surgery, for the fourth time, last October, looked in good shape, emerging unscathed from a sparing reintroduction that began with spells of five overs and then four.

Given that Ramprakash and Mark Butcher were not being troubled by much at all, as their third-wicket partnership grew to 186, he might take it as a compliment that it was nine balls into his third spell that the umpires decided the evening light was too poor. "He's come through with no ills at this stage and we're happy with the way he let the ball go," his captain, Stuart Law, said.

For good measure, Flintoff claimed a wicket, setting a leg side trap into which Scott Newman compliantly fell, caught on the hook. At the time, with Newman striking the ball well after Surrey had chosen to bat first, it looked an important wicket.

But the day belonged to Ramprakash and the echoes of last September were uncanny. Given a life then before he had scored – his first-innings 196 followed a missed run-out on nought – he escaped again yesterday, wicketkeeper Luke Sutton spilling a regulation catch.

By the end of a day limited to 68.3 overs after a wet outfield delayed the start, Ramprakash had added 16 more boundaries, completing his third hundred in a row against these opponents. Butcher, 80 not out, was almost as impressive. Lancashire are already in trouble.