Surrey v Yorkshire, County Championship, The Oval May 21, 2008

Butcher hundred hurts Yorkshire

Surrey 396 for 5 (Butcher 189*, Nicholson 103*) v Yorkshire

Mark Butcher piled on the runs against Yorkshire, finishing unbeaten on 189 on a day when Surrey fans had hoped to see another former England batsman reach triple figures. The wait for Mark Ramprakash's 100th first-class century will continue after he only managed 29 but Surrey were in a strong position by the close of the first day thanks to Butcher and his fellow centurion Matthew Nicholson, who guided them to 396 for 5.

The pair put on an unbroken 203-run sixth-wicket stand, Butcher raising his 38th first-class hundred and Nicholson his fourth as Yorkshire struggled to capitalise on some middle-order shakes from the home side. Yorkshire were also kicking themselves after putting both batsmen down - Butcher was dropped at short leg on 33 and Nicholson in the slips on 60.

Butcher looked at ease for most of the day, driving confidently to all parts of the ground and bringing up his century with a cover-driven boundary off Anthony McGrath. Nicholson nearly ran out of time to bring up his milestone but got there in the final over of the day with a sweetly-timed late cut for four off Tim Bresnan.

Nothing could stand in Nicholson's way, not even an unfortunate pigeon at third man off a late, and ultimately fatal, cut. The bird was one of a large flock grazing in the outfield and for a while it remained an obstacle, until Naved-ul-Hasan removed it from the field of play to cheers from the crowd.

It was all part of a vicious final session during which Surrey added 183 off 31 overs, a fine turnaround after they lost 3 for 9 in 20 balls earlier in the day. The mini-collapse began when Ramprakash edged a low catch to second slip to give the beanpole fast bowler Oliver Hannon-Dalby his maiden first-class wicket.

It would be unfair to expect Ramprakash to make a century at the click of one's fingers, but such has been his assured acceleration towards the landmark - posting Nos 98 and 99 already this season - that every time he bats it's easy to think this may be the one. He looked nervous to begin with, though, thick-edging on 6, though the ball fell short of first slip.

Deon Kruis threatened to rattle through the middle order after Ramprakash departed, having Usman Afzaal caught behind and Ali Brown trapped lbw, both without scoring. But Jonathan Batty (26) and Butcher steadied proceedings before the mammoth partnership between the centurions.

Brydon Coverdale is a staff writer at Cricinfo