County Championship Division One round-up September 19, 2007

Ramprakash frustrates Lancashire

Cricinfo staff at The Oval



Mark Ramprakash: recorded his 96th career first-class hundred © Martin Williamson
One thing was likely to halt Lancashire's title charge on the opening day at The Oval and it wasn't the predicted rain, which kept away. No. It was the more predictable and no less ethereal Mark Ramprakash, whose unbeaten century lifted Surrey to 374 for 6.

While he took a while to get into his well-worn groove, in the afternoon session and beyond it was clear that nothing could stop him. In recent one-day matches, it seems teams have only been able to run him out, and he survived two near misses. He was also nearly yorked by Glen Chapple, but he survived and took handsome advantage - moving on to 180 by the time bad light brought an early close.

Despite the importance of this match, there were only the customary few witnessing Ramprakash's exploits, and those of James Benning who joined him for a rapid fifty off 25 balls - his sixth first-class half-century - which injected some momentum before his leading edge to silly mid-off brought a tame end to a fiery innings.

Butcher's decision to bat in humid, overcast conditions and an early start, raised a few eyebrows - particularly when Batty fell for a duck to the incisive and hostile Saj Mahmood. Ramprakash and Newman, though, battened down the hatches to weather some threatening early bowling.

Newman (39) fell fending at Dominic Cork's swinging lifter, then Mark Butcher fell to Mahmood after lunch, caught by Steven Croft. Stewart Walters, meanwhile, already dropped at first slip by VVS Laxman trying to hook Cork, finally paid for his impetuosity on 36, when he flicked an edge to gully off a booming would-be drive off Gary Keedy. But Surrey will be happy with their opening day.

Sussex moved to 287 for 4 and closer to the title, with Chris Nash and Richard Montgomerie's opening stand of 155 getting them off to a good start against Worcestershire at Hove. Both fell in sight of their hundreds; Nash made 89 and Montgomerie 82. Chris Adams shrugged off injury concerns - he didn't bat in practice yesterday - to declare himself fit and he was certainly raring as he moved to 32 not out. Gareth Batty, captaining in place of Vikram Solanki who's on England duty, shuffled his pack to use seven bowlers but, although the track was taking turn, it was the pacers who took the wickets.

Durham, needing a win to keep alive their Championship hopes, enjoyed the best of the day against Kent at Canterbury where they closed on 126 for 4 after bowling the hosts out for 212. Kent won the toss but did not capitalise after losing both openers within three overs. Their biggest stand came for the tenth wicket as Ryan McLaren (54*) and Martin Saggers put on 65. Ottis Gibson grabbed three wickets to take his season's haul to 78, a Durham record, while Michael Di Venuto took four slip catches. Durham eased to 86 for 1 before losing three wickets in 13 balls to bring Kent back into the match.

Yorkshire's slim hopes ebbed further away as they slid to 161 for 7 against Hampshire in an on-off day at Headingley. In between five stoppages Sean Ervine, along with the opening pace pair of James Bruce and David Balcombe, in his second Championship match, did the damage. Bruce took three, while there were two each for Ervine and Balcome. Yorkshire lost Andrew Gale to the second ball of the day and struggled thereafter. Michael Vaughan looked at ease until he chopped Balcombe into his stumps, and then Inzamam-ul-Haq and Gerard Brophy put on the day's only meaningful stand, 76 for the fifth wicket. Inzamam fell lbw the ball after reaching his fifty.