Surrey v Gloucestershire, County Championship, The Oval, 2nd day May 4, 2006

Ramprakash doubles up in style

Surrey 608 for 7 (Ramprakash 276*, Ormond 0*) lead Gloucestershire 207 by 401 runs

Mark Ramprakash continues to be a run-machine for Surrey © Getty Images
It's still early in the season but you can already here those annual cries of "why hasn't Mark Ramprakash played more for England?" The blunt answer is because he couldn't adjust to the pressure and intensity of the higher level, but when it comes to cashing in against mediocre bowling attacks - and for Gloucestershire that's being kind - he is a class apart on the county scene.

There was a sense of inevitability from the moment Ramprakash walked out on the first evening that he wouldn't be heading back the pavilion without plenty of runs to his name. His latest double hundred, the 11th of his career, was a seamless progression through the milestones as he tucked in against each of the Gloucestershire bowlers and he stands just four shy of a new career-best.

Regardless of the quality of the attack some of Ramprakash's strokeplay just had to be admired. His timing and placement were out of the top draw and one effortless flick through midwicket and two scorching cover drives, with a hint of the Caribbean, were especially memorable. His first hundred took 146 deliveries and then he decided to take his time, as James Benning took over the axe wielding, and reached his double off 324 balls. But even the celebration on reaching his 200 - a casual wave to the dressing room and spectators - was of a man who'd seen it all before.

With the double out of the way there was then an exhibition of a side of Ramprakash we never encountered at the top level as he unleashed a series of thunderous blows, especially off Martyn Ball and Carl Greenidge, rattling through the 200s before playing it safe in the final twenty minutes, leaving him to contemplate a maiden triple century.

His innings ground Gloucestershire into the dirt and their body language, which hadn't exactly been sprightly in the morning, sagged dramatically on the warmest day of the early summer. If facing another batting masterclass from Ramprakash wasn't bad enough, what compounded the misery was a brutal maiden Championship ton from James Benning, who is only playing as cover for Rikki Clarke.

Benning started at a decent rate, but it was his second fifty, which took 28 balls, that really sent fielders scurrying to all corners - well, it would have done if they'd been able to reach the ball. He took a particular liking to Steve Kirby who went for 20 in an over. For some reason he thought it would be a good idea to try and bounce out Benning, but by the time the fourth consecutive pull had rattled the boundary boards he probably realised the plan hadn't worked.

Ball was the only Gloucestershire bowler to emerge from the wreckage with any credit as he toiled away with his offspin. He snuck in for the first breakthrough of the day when Scott Newman was trapped on his crease. Newman played some handsome strokes, but repeated a common mistake of his by failing to build on a half-century. His start to the season has been impressive, but big scores talk.

Mark Butcher never quite found his fluency - but it hardly mattered - as he added 113 with Ramprakash before top-edging a sweep to short fine-leg. Alistair Brown really missed out, backing away to guide Ball down to third man and now, with the success of Benning and Clarke to return, his place will be coming under question.

Ball picked up his fourth when Azhar Mahmood chipped a return catch, after adding a mere 110 with Ramprakash, with the score reading 600 and he claimed one of the more inglorious five-fors when Ian Salisbury fell. Surrey smashed 476 runs in the day; that just about summed it up for Gloucestershire.

Andrew McGlashan is editorial assistant of Cricinfo