Ramprakash prospers with 110th first-class ton
Surrey 286 for 4 v Middlesex
Mark Ramprakash scored the 110th first-class hundred of his prolific career to give Surrey the upper hand as they finished on 286 for 4 after a hard-fought first day of their County Championship game against Middlesex at The Oval.
Ramprakash, who finished the day on a chanceless 125 not out, has an impressive record against Middlesex, the county he left following the 2000 summer after 14 seasons. This was his 14th first-class innings against them for Surrey - he now totals 1,183 runs against them at an average of 118.30, with five centuries.
At The Oval, too, his run-scoring has been the stuff of legend throughout his career for Middlesex, Surrey and England. He now has 31 first-class tons on the ground, and he averages well over 70 here across his 24-year senior career.
Surrey really needed this latest Ramprakash effort, too, as they began this match stuck at rock bottom of the table. Middlesex, who began the season with four successive defeats but are now in mid-table after successive wins, will have come to The Oval with a real desire to add the scalp of their suffering local rivals.
A flat pitch greeted them, though, and Surrey captain Rory Hamilton-Brown had no hesitation in opting to bat first when he won the toss. But the early wicket of Laurie Evans, bowled through the gate by a Tim Murtagh break-back, gave Middlesex hope of embarrassing the home side with the new ball.
A mid-morning shower and a half-hour break for rain also enabled Murtagh and the dangerous Steven Finn to bowl, in effect, two separate opening spells and before lunch it was simply a case of Ramprakash and Arun Harinath making sure they occupied the crease and blunted the impressive Middlesex pace attack.
At the lunch interval Surrey had scored only 46 for 1 from 24 overs, but Ramprakash began to play some strokes in the afternoon and even the defensive Harinath opened up with two superb offside fours against Shaun Udal's offspin.
On 39, however, Harinath edged behind attempting to force Udal square and Hamilton-Brown came in at number four to help Ramprakash take the game to the Middlesex bowlers.
Hamilton-Brown completed a feisty 55 from 60 balls, with nine fours, before skying an attempted big hit at Udal to deep mid-on but Ramprakash remained and was joined in a further sizeable partnership by Usman Afzaal.
Ramprakash and Hamilton-Brown had added 86 in 22 overs for the third wicket, but he and Afzaal put on another 99 in 32 overs before Afzaal, on 42, drove the last ball of the day - from Udal - into mid-off's hands. It was a foolish shot, especially as the pair had just seen off eight overs of the second new ball.
By the close Ramprakash, who had completed his hundred from 222 balls with 13 fours, had batted for 344 minutes. After reaching three figures after a 20-minute wait on 99, he hit Udal high over long-on for six and had also hit 15 fours in total.