Ramprakash in full flow again

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Cricket

MIKE CAREY

reports from Headingley

Middlesex 346-4 v Yorkshire

The drought may continue in some areas, but Mark Ramprakash remains in full flood. His sixth Championship century of the season yesterday ensured that Middlesex made the most of winning an important toss. Doubtless their spinners will reciprocate in kind later.

The ball turned occasionally from the moment it was first spun, but, sad to say, much of Yorkshire's slow bowling fell short of the county's great traditions and they had to lean heavily on their quicker bowlers.

The pitch is the last one produced here by Keith Boyce. Dry and cracked, its lack of pace and bounce demanded disciplined operations on the front foot and it will be a surprise if it does not become even slower and lower, as well as suffer a certain amount of wear.

Occupation of the crease would therefore be uppermost in Middlesex minds and their delight that a target of 350-plus is now well within their grasp will be tempered by the knowledge that Ramprakash was the only batsman to cash in after becoming established.

While batsmen found various ways of getting out at the other end, he prospered, feet twinkling from the start and, timing the ball effortlessly, he missed little that could be driven in the arc between mid-on and mid-off.

He gave no discernible chance, nor did he need too much luck. At the one point Craig White tested a theory that he might be vulnerable to something short, sharp and nasty but this was not the pitch - or he the bowler - to prove it and Ramprakash sailed on as partners came and went.

Among them, Paul Weekes looked disappointed to be leg before to Michael Vaughan's quicker ball after launching a mini-assault on the spinners and, with even mistimed strokes hurtling to the boundary over a parched and rapid outfield, Yorkshire must have feared the worst. However, Mike Gatting, having played several resounding back-foot strokes against Richard Stemp, perished attempting another piece of violence, while John Carr had made 41 from 53 balls with few problems when Stemp bowled him.

This left Ramprakash centre stage. When he reached three figures from 249 balls it was his fifth hundred in seven Championship matches since his pair in the Lord's Test. His concentration both before and after two stoppages for bad light suggested he is out for another big one today.

Latterly Ramprakash knew little about a ball from Mark Robinson which sped for four off an inside edge, but by then he was well past a hundred and this was a rare blemish. Keith Brown, sweeping with impunity at almost anything regardless of length and line, dropped anchor with him and helped to add 105 for the fifth wicket.

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