Game's blueprint prompts Sussex mini-tournament plan

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Sussex have proposed a series of pre-season regional tournaments to make up for the lost number of county games under the new blueprint for cricket.

The club's chairman, Robert Marlar, and chief executive, Tony Pigott, are unhappy about the reduction of matches and said they will put forward a proposal for a mini-regional championship during March.

"We will propose that all pre-season trips should be abandoned and that March be used to play a mini regional championship on uncovered pitches," Marlar said.

"We are doing this because we are not happy about the reduction of Championship games. Personally I resent it greatly and when it was first announced I felt like going to war over it."

The Middlesex captain, Mark Ramprakash, was left on 99 not out when the first day of the match against Hampshire at Lord's finished early. Bad light and rain took 33 overs out of the first day and the premature end left Middlesex 212 for 3 off 71 overs.

Mike Gatting and Ramprakash added 128 for the third wicket before Gatting played a lazy shot to a long hop from Mathew Hayden and succeeded in swatting it to Robin Smith at mid-on. Gatting fell three short of his half-century while Ramprakash, who had reached his 50 off 94 balls, was in total command. But after reaching 99 in the 66th over, he was still short of his century 18 deliveries later.

At The Oval, Mark Butcher failed to respond to the challenge of the Surrey manager, David Gilbert, to take out his frustrations on the Durham attack.

Butcher, dropped by England and disciplined by Surrey for a show of petulance at Lord's on Sunday, scored 24 before he lost his off stump to Mike Foster. Instead, it was Jason Ratcliffe who seized the opportunity to impress. Ratcliffe scored a faultless 54 not out in Surrey's 164 for 2 on a day shortened by bad light and rain to 45 overs..

Conditions seemed set fair for Butcher, who has not been able to rediscover the prolific form of last season. The acting captain, Chris Lewis, won the toss and chose to bat, and there were few alarms as Butcher and Darren Bicknell moved to 63 from 17 overs.

Durham then struck to remove both openers in successive overs, however. Bicknell flicked at a leg-stump delivery from Melvyn Betts to give Martin Speight a catch, while with only four runs added, Butcher drove all round a swinging ball from Foster and was bowled via his pad.