Surrey swagger returns

Lancashire 210 & 57-3 Surrey 525

This normally genteel and elegant amphitheatre in leafy suburban Croydon, was yesterday transformed into a chamber of horrors for Lancashire.

This normally genteel and elegant amphitheatre in leafy suburban Croydon, was yesterday transformed into a chamber of horrors for Lancashire.

It is apposite that this most picturesque of settings houses one of the country's premier schools, because Lancashire have been given a harsh lesson in survival. Surrey seethed with certitude, their body language strident, as the old swagger returned to a side that has struggled unconvincingly for much of the season.

As relegation dog-fights go, it was the pitbulls of Surrey against the chihuahuas of Lancashire. Mark Ramprakash provided the bark with his fifth century in seven Championship innings - "I've not had a run quite like this before" - while Martin Bicknell and Jimmy Ormond supplied the bite with three wickets on a balmy evening to leave Lancashire trailing by 258 runs.

Lancashire had already been on the rack for the best part of six hours while Ramprakash compiled the 73rd hundred of his career, as assured and masterful a display of batting as anyone could wish to witness.

His placement was precise, the very opposite of the Lancashire bowling. He was as watchful as ever as he and Rikki Clarke took their third-wicket partnership to 124, before the latter fell lbw to Dominic Cork.

Ramprakash lasted until after lunch before being snapped up at short cover when Gary Keedy got a ball to turn significantly. He had hit 16 fours off the 246 balls he faced.

But if Lancashire imagined the torture was over they were rapidly disabused of the notion. They were off the rack only to have the screws applied first by Alistair Brown, then late on by Tim Murtagh, whose assault included five sixes and two fours. It all added up to a substantial first-innings lead of 315 and a massive psychological advantage over a flabby-looking side which can be expected to fold some time today.

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