As he buried his frozen hands deep in his trouser pockets here yesterday, jumping about at gully as his finger ends throbbed from the ball he had just stopped, Mark Ramprakash may momentarily have wondered if he was right in the head to turn down the chance to play in the 90-degree heat of India this weekend.
He could have been in Delhi this afternoon, making his debut for Rajasthan Royals in the Indian Premier League, having been offered a two-week stint standing in for Graeme Smith, who has a clashing Twenty20 commitment in South Africa. Instead, he did what he considered to be the honourable thing and stayed with Surrey.
Just as well he still had the warm glow of his 98th career first-class century, along with several layers of clothing, to insulate him against the icy wind. That and the knowledge that, with his help and some benevolent weather today, Surrey can open their season with a win.
Lancashire have not been able to match Surrey's proficiency with the bat, although, in their defence, they have had the worst of conditions.
Under an overcast sky there was more happening for the bowlers, helping Jimmy Ormond, Pedro Collins and Chris Jordan to convince the more sceptical Surrey supporters that they might have a half-decent pace attack after all.
Ormond maintained a testing line outside off stump and kept his discipline even after Paul Horton had hit a couple of juicy cover drives and Mark Butcher, forgivably, had put down Gary Keedy, the nightwatchman, at first slip on 18. Finding some extra bounce, he drew a tickled edge from Horton for Jon Batty to take the catch.
Jordan had Keedy yorked before Chris Schofield, fielding as substitute, ran out Mal Loye, answering Brad Hodge's call for a quick single, with a brilliant throw running in from cover. Suddenly, Lancashire were 117-4.
Hodge and Stuart Law regrouped impressively, adding 92 in 27 overs for the fifth wicket, but then Law, driving too early at a ball from Collins, the former West Indies Test bowler, fell to a fine catch by Ramprakash at mid-off.
Law's demise ushered in Andrew Flintoff, who had proved himself in good order with the ball and now wanted to offer evidence of his well-being with the bat. Three fours off the reel against Jordan – one streaky but two from authentic strokes – looked encouraging but after 23 runs in 22 deliveries he was undone by a doosra from Saqlain Mushtaq, the off spinner.
Bad light and then rain cut the day by 40 overs with Lancashire still 147 short of avoiding the follow-on.Reuse content