Sussex 475 Surrey 164-2: Relentless Ramprakash nears another landmark

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The Independent Online

There was a definite air of anticipation, almost as tangible as the famed sea fret that occasionally envelopes the County Ground, here yesterday. It stirred almost imperceptibly at the fall of the last Sussex wicket, then picked up when the Surrey openers Scott Newman and Jon Batty emerged to set about replying to Sussex's substantial first innings total.

The reason for that total was a half-century by Matt Prior in the morning session and an unbeaten fifty by Robin Martin-Jenkins later on, performances which helped defending champions Sussex to maximum batting points.

Newman and Batty were together for a half hour then they were parted. A stranger walking into the ground at the fall of Batty's wicket, lbw to Martin-Jenkins shortly after 3pm, would have been aware of a sudden stillness as Mark Ramprakash made his way to the middle.

Ramprakash had arrived on the South Coast with 98 first-class hundreds to his name and had it not been for rain wiping out the first day (and incidentally consigning this to a likely draw) there were those optimists in the visiting camp who hoped for numbers 99 and 100 to be scored here.

Ramprakash displayed the utmost patience as he settled in, leaving things up to Newman initially, although once established, the Surrey run machine began to catch up with his second-wicket partner, who was pulling and driving with seeming abandon.

Newman is 28 and a colossal talent, yet perhaps he could have turned more of his 42 fifties into hundreds than the 11 he has to his name to date.

Here was yet another missed opportunity. Newman was looking in great nick as he moved soundly to the half-century off 84 balls with the help of seven boundaries, then Martin-Jenkins returned at the Cromwell Road End. After being pulled savagely to the square-leg boundary he tempted Newman into a similar shot, no contact was made and the ball rapped the batsman on the pads.

Ramprakash had just reached 50 for the 233rd time in his career, he had taken 99 unhurried balls.

Ordinarily a Surrey wicket would have elicited an agonised groan from the travelling faithful, not this time though. They did register their disappointment at Newman's departure, but the thing they all wanted to witness was yet another Ramprakash landmark. Their collective will should be granted sometime this morning, when Surrey resume 311 runs behind. But should he fail, there could well be a wailing and a gnashing of teeth.