Ramprakash century steals just a little of Warne's thunder
After a day of toil and sweat, Shane Warne finally landed his 400th Test wicket at the AMP Oval today while, after waiting ten years, Mark Ramprakash finally made his first Test century on home soil.
The long awaited hundred was only his second Test century in a career spanning 46 Tests and it took five-and-a-quarter hours in the blistering heat to complete on the ground the Surrey batsman made his new home earlier this year. The innings brought England in sight of the follow-on target of 442, closing the third day of the match on 409 for eight with Ramprakash unbeaten on 124.
For much of his innings he played second fiddle to his partners with first Nasser Hussain, then Usman Afzaal stealing the limelight. But he worked hard in the background, accumulating his runs quietly and cleanly until he arrived in the 80s and with England losing their eighth wicket, he was suddenly in danger of running out of partners.
But Darren Gough stayed with him and finally, with the shadows lengthening, he drove Warne elegantly to the extra cover boundary to celebrate a moment that will remain one of the most emotional of his career. It was his 15th boundary from 196 balls and it resulted in a standing ovation from the 18 000 strong London crowd. His England colleagues applauded from the balcony, Gough gave him a big bearhug and the Australian players, including Steve Waugh and Adam Gilchrist, came to him to shake his hand.
Warne also had to wait to reach his milestone. Five long hours after taking his 399th wicket, he finally hit the jackpot with the support of his captain who tossed him the new ball when it was just six overs old. It allowed Warne to enter the history books as the sixth bowler in Test history to take 400 wickets.
He celebrated in the new way - by holding the cricket ball above his head and turning a circle to acknowledge the applause, as batters do with their hardware. And most of the crowd rose to their feet to show their appreciation, aware that for the second consecutive day in this last npower Test of the summer, they were witnessing something special.
Alec Stewart, who was also Warne's 150th and 250th Test victim, was caught behind trying to steer the ball down to third man after he had made 29 and put on 58 for the sixth wicket with Ramprakash.
With the very next ball, Warne added another statistic to his record books when he took five wickets in a Test innings for the 19th time, having Andrew Caddick leg before for a duck.
His hat-trick opportunity arrived in the shape of James Ormond, playing in his first Test match and arriving at the crease with England's score 313 for seven, still 129 runs shy of the follow on, but Ormond shrugged off the pressure and pushed Warne to mid on to get off the mark.
Warne was in action from the Vauxhall End for most the day although he put in an expensive four-over spell from the Pavilion End before returning north with his new ball to devastating effect. He bowled a remarkable 34 overs and finished with an equally remarkable 6-155.
The two milestone moments topped off another spell-binding day. Marcus Trescothick was the first England batsman to depart, bowled by Warne's fifth delivery of the day then Mark Butcher, who turned the match at Headingley, also fell before lunch for 25, caught at silly point to give Warne his 399th wicket.
Hussain repeated his Headingley experience by playing with dogged determination to reach 52 then lost his wicket 19 balls after lunch, playing on to Mark Waugh, of all people, who was filling in at the Vauxhall end while Warne took a short break from his 400 campaign.
Afzaal presented his credentials for the first time with a spirited half-century, arguing his case persuasively for a place on England's winter tour to India and New Zealand. By the time he went, England were 255 for five, their only real hope lying with Ramprakash, who was looking increasingly at ease.