Ramprakash tucks in

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The Independent Online
Gloucestershire 208 Middlesex 410-2

Jack Russell may have held the fort here to earn Gloucestershire some sort of respectability on day one, but yesterday Middlesex stormed across the ramparts. Still, at a little above three an over, this was a humane kill rather than all-out slaughter, though Jason Pooley, Mark Ramprakash and Mike Gatting were not against wetting the blade.

With the ball coming on to the bat, Gloucestershire were purely on the defensive from an early hour, centuries from the Middlesex trio spread across three fairly tranquil sessions of pull and push, accumulation marked by the sudden thrust of a well directed boundary. Gloucestershire celebrations were few and far between. Having given away their own wickets, there was no such generosity forthcoming from the side third-placed in the Championship prior to the start. The only batsman to miss out was Paul Weekes, kicking himself after edging Mark Alleyne to Monte Lynch at slip on 33 just over the first hour.

By the time Gloucestershire managed another wicket, Middlesex were a further 142 down the road to building a strong position, Pooley pushing Kevin Cooper to mid-off. The left-hander had not scored a first-class century before this season and now he has three to his name, this one of 136, laced with 23 boundaries, representing a career best.

And there was Ramprakash, with points to score and runs to make after being discarded by England. Many felt he should have been left to fight another day against the West Indies. Instead, he took out his disappointment on suffering Glou- cestershire with his third hundred of the season, taking nearly four and three quarter hours to reach three figures and happy to be given a life when offering up a sharp chance to gully on 113.

Which brings us to Gatting, his first century of the summer breaking a lean spell featuring one mere snack of a fifty. Here his 18th four took him to something far more substantial in the final over. The shot completed, he and Ramprakash were soon walking off to applause for an unbroken stand worth 187, with Middlesex sitting comfortably on a lead of 202.