Sussex 475 & 13-0 Surrey 400-5 dec (Match drawn): Ramprakash on 99 and going strong
Sunday 04 May 2008
With an air of serene inevitability Mark Ramprakash scored his 99th first-class hundred yesterday. He did so with three fours in rapid succession: a clinical pull, a rasping straight drive and a back-foot cut. What might have been, you were left wondering, if only his career had been fulfilled.
His next Championship match is against Hampshire at the Rose Bowl and since he has started this season as he ended the last and the one before that, the chances are that he will become the 25th batsman to score a hundred hundreds.
In life, there are now three certainties: death, taxes and Ramprakash centuries. His 665th innings was the habitual masterclass in what to play, what to leave, and when.
Given the circumstances of a weather-ruined match, there was no need to rush. Indeed, of the 20 centuries he has now scored in 53 innings since the beginning of 2006 – the Last Golden Age perhaps – this, at 224 balls, was the slowest. But pertinently when the hundred was firmly in view he did not mess about, the last 38 runs of his 123 coming in 30 balls.
When Ramprakash is at the Rose Bowl playing for Surrey, England will be at Lord's playing New Zealand in the First Test. But should he be at Lord's? It would be a brave set of selectors who answered that question correctly but by any standard criteria he should be picked, regardless of the 52 largely disappointing Tests he has previously played.
There can be no question that he is the most accomplished of all English batsmen currently playing. Of his hundreds, 46 have been scored for Surrey and also 46 for Middlesex, a neat symmetry, unfortunately soon to be dislodged.
A drawn outcome was as inevitable as Ramps' runs. Not wishing to give Sussex an inch or another bowling point, Surrey declared when they attained their last batting point. It fizzled out, improbably, with Usman Afzaal and Alistair Brown opening Surrey's bowling, which lent the sense that the dear old Championship was heading the same way.
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