Ramprakash digs in

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The Independent Online
HENRY BLOFELD

reports from Uxbridge

Middlesex 239-4 v Leicestershire

Although the morning was dry at Park Road, a wet outfield delayed the start until two o'clock. Middlesex, and more particularly Mark Ramprakash, then did their best to make up for lost time to the rather gloomy background of the news from Edgbaston which reverberated from the public-address system.

At first, Middlesex were pushed on to the back foot by Gordon Parsons, the distinguished elder statesman of Leicestershire cricket. Jason Pooley went back and played on, while Paul Weekes also played back and was caught behind, and Middlesex were 12 for 2.

Parsons has taken more than 700 wickets in a career which began in 1978. He ran in about 15 paces, getting power from his shoulders, and although no more than medium fast, hurried the batsmen into their strokes and found movement off the seam.

At the fall of the first Middlesex wicket, Ramprakash strode out like a man keen to get on with it and turned his first ball from Parsons off his toes to backward square leg for four. He introduced an air of certainty as well as urgency into the batting, although he was beaten a couple of times early on by late movement.

There was a lovely drive through extra cover off Parsons, he timed the ball well off his legs and cut most handsomely. Then, at 25, he might have been caught at cover off the leading edge when he tried to play Hanse Cronje through mid-wicket, but Vince Wells, who did well to reach the skier, could not hold on.

While Ramprakash was batting with all the confidence which sometimes seems to be so crucially missing, Mike Gatting played several uncompromising strokes before pushing Alan Mullally gently off his legs to mid-wicket. He and Ramprakash had put on 60.

John Carr also batted well until Parsons was brought back and repeated his party trick with his third ball, when he had Carr lbw on the back foot. Two sweeps and a cover drive off Adrian Pierson brought Ramprakash to his seventh hundred in 12 innings since making a pair in the Lord's Test match. He found another good partner in Keith Brown, and they have so far added 95 runs for the fifth wicket.

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