Ward underlines Surrey's class divide

Middlesex 370 Surrey 274-3
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The Independent Online

There was an inexorable, not to say invincible, quality to Surrey's batting yesterday as they consigned Middlesex to the flat earth society, grinding the home side's attack into the surface of a fine batting pitch.

Surrey took charge from the start, Ian Ward compiling a fine hundred, his second in successive innings, and later Mark Ramprakash, with a lot more to prove as a former Middlesex player, reinforcing that.

Ramprakash's third-wicket partner, Graham Thorpe, was of a like mind. But this measured approach could yet backfire on the Brown Hats if the weather forecasters are to be believed. There was no sense of urgency even though Surrey's declared intent on losing the toss had been to make sure they amassed so many runs this time around that they would not need to bat again.

Still, it was not bad fare. Well as Middlesex did, coming within a toucher of maximum batting points in the morning, the achievements of the Surrey top five are enough to have statisticians groaning with delight and opponents paling at the prospect. While the Middlesex top five have accrued a total of 21,264 first-class career runs, the Surrey quintet boasts 19,022 runs in Test matches alone.

Little wonder, then, that after belatedly ending the Middlesex resistance shortly after midday, Surrey proceeded to take charge with the bat. Ward, the quintet's lowest scorer with 129 Test runs, led the way, plundering a sumptuous hundred. He and Mark Butcher (3,153 Test runs) wasted no time in setting about the Middlesex attack either side of lunch. A century stand looked a certainty until Butcher decided to pull a short ball from Abdul Razzaq, failed to get enough bat on it and the top edge provided Sven Koenig with a straightforward catch at long leg.

Ward carried on the good work with Ramprakash (2,350), spending the rest of the afternoon wearing down the tiring attack. There were a couple of moments of excess, first when left-hander Ward permitted himself the luxury of pulling a loose Simon Cook delivery into the Mound Stand for six, and again, to bring up his hundred when he executed a swivel-pull off Razzaq for his 15th four.

It was a flourish worthy of the 17th century of his first-class career. This was the ninth time he has reached three figures in his last 15 championship games, starting with his match-winning hundred against Kent at Canterbury last July, to underline his peerless consistency.

Ramprakash was then joined by Thorpe (5,109) and the steady grind continued. Thorpe's fall late in the day was merely a minor setback. Although there is no Alistair Brown - omitted to allow for greater depth to the attack - it is almost unthinkable that Surrey will not capitalise on their good start today; not with Alec Stewart (8,281) still to come after the nightwatchman, Saqlain Mushtaq, who himself has a Test hundred to his name, has done his bit.

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