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'You really earn your runs against Australia'

Mark Ramprakash spoke to Cricinfo about his Ashes memories from 2001


Mark Ramprakash was an unfulfilled talent while averaging 27.32 in his 52-Test career. Yet against Australia he lifted his game to score 933 runs at 42.40 in 12 matches. His final Ashes series ended on a high note when he struck his only Test century in England at The Oval in 2001. But it wasn't enough to save England, who lost the series 4-1.

Mark Ramprakash celebrates his century at The Oval © Getty Images
The 2001 series was a very difficult one. I had come in for the second Test after being ruled out of the first one with a hamstring injury. Three batsmen were out injured, which thrust me into the team at Lord's. I knew what to expect. I had played against the same bowlers in Australia in 1998-99 - Warne, McGrath and Gillespie. But that works both ways - I got a look at them and they got a look at me.
You really have to earn your runs against the Australians. McGrath is an exceptionally good bowler and he won't give you anything. The pressure Warne exerts is massive, and none of them bowl many bad balls. Gillespie makes you earn every run, too, and their fielding is really good.
Even so, I was happy with my form in Australia in 1998-99 [379 runs at 47.37] and I had spent some time at the crease and got something from that. It's different to being in England because you don't have to pick up the media in the morning. Not having to look at the English press is an advantage and you can concentrate on your cricket. I found it a more relaxing environment.
At Trent Bridge in the third Test in 2001 I got heavily criticised by the press for getting out stumped. We have a mentality in English cricket of getting out in the right way, rather than trying to attack. But you knew they played very attacking cricket, with attacking fields, so I decided to try to take the initiative, as I thought the best form of defence was attack.
It didn't come off at Trent Bridge and I got out stumped to Warne. The management didn't speak to me, I didn't know what they thought - but, happily, I was in a good run of form and I didn't let that bother me. I played my natural way, which included my hundred at The Oval, in the last Test.
I had scored several fifties against the Australians, but I hadn't managed to go on, so for me to make my century was very special. The series was dead - Australia had already won - but the nature of the game is that you're always fighting on an individual level. I worked very hard at my own game, and knew that I could benefit the side if I could score runs - it's an individual battle in any cricket match.
There was quite a lot of chat from them throughout the series, but I knew that there would be. I stayed focussed. If you concentrate hard on your own game and score runs you will help the team.

Mark Ramprakash was speaking to Jenny Thompson