Surrey 427-9 & 295-5 Lancashire 234 & 27-0: Lancashire left needing miracle

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The Independent Online

The requirement for Lancashire is straightforward enough. To secure the County Championship for the first time since 1934 they must score the largest fourth-innings winning total since 1925, when Patsy Hendren compiled an unbeaten double century and Middlesex chased down 502 to beat Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge in 1925.

There is a batsman in this match capable of emulating Hendren's feat. Unfortunately, he plays for Surrey and it was he whose successful pursuit of a personal record determined that Lancashire would be required to post a total of 489 to prevent Durham winning their first title or, more likely, Sussex retaining it.

In making 130 not out from Surrey's 295 for 5 declared, the redoubtable Mark Ramprakash finished his season with a first-class batting average of 101.30, which makes him the first in the history of the game to average more than 100 in two consecutive seasons. He is also the first to aggregate more than 2,000 runs in consecutive first-class seasons since Jimmy Cook did so from 1989 to 1991.

When veteran Dominic Cork dismissed Scott Newman with his second ball yesterday, it seemed possible that Lancashire might claim the clutch of early wickets they needed to arrive at a target closer to that one but after Ramprakash, immaculately straight, had been the fulcrum for partnerships of 89 and 77 with Jon Batty and Mark Butcher, the game was already going away from them.

They return this morning with 462 still needed, 96 overs left and all wickets intact but a heavy onus lies on Stuart Law and VVS Laxman to seize the Ramprakash mantle, preferably, from a Lancashire point of view, after Paul Horton, he of the infamous missed run-out in the first innings when the maestro had yet to score, has made recompense.