Ramprakash stands firm

Lv County Championship
Mark Ramprakash

Mark Ramprakash flicks off his legs during his virtuoso innings

Mark Ramprakash made Lancashire pay dearly for missing their early opportunity to shift him - by stifling the Red Rose’s LV County Championship title push with yet another big hundred.

Lancashire must win at the Brit Oval to be sure of sneaking the silverware ahead of Sussex and Durham in this final round of matches - and their prospects receded from the moment Ramprakash (180 not out) survived on nought when he ought to have been run out.

His 190-ball progress to a 96th first-class century featured 17 trademark boundaries, and the Surrey rock’s ninth three-figure score of the summer helped his team frustrate their eager visitors to the tune of 374 for six by the time bad light brought an early close to day one.

As stealthy headway was made by Lancashire’s two title challengers elsewhere, it became clear they could ill-afford a high-scoring stalemate.

Another virtuoso from Ramprakash was just what they did not need - and the worst part was they had only themselves to blame for allowing him his foothold.

Mark Ramprakash

Ramprakash reaches three figures for the 96th time

The former England batsman went on to share 50 plus stands with opener Scott Newman, Stewart Walters, James Benning (51) - whose half-century from just 25 balls contained seven fours and two sixes - and finally Chris Jordan.

Ramprakash’s contribution was the obvious key, as Surrey justified their decision to bat first in initially awkward conditions under persistently cloudy skies.

They faced a specific challenge to limit the damage before lunch, their travails beginning when Jonathan Batty was dropped from the fourth ball he faced - by Stuart Law at second slip off Sajid Mahmood.

The wicket-keeper survived only until Mahmood’s next over and still had not scored when he gave Law a second chance, gratefully accepted chest high to his left.

Ramprakash might easily have gone without scoring too, attempting a jittery single after jamming a Mahmood yorker out into the off side.

The bowler picked up in his follow through and ‘back-handed’ his throw close to the stumps, where short-leg fielder Paul Horton failed to gather it cleanly - with Ramprakash retreating but still short of his ground.

James Benning

James Benning hits out over mid-wicket in a quickfire 51

Lancashire therefore passed up the chance to have Surrey two for two in the fourth over - and Ramprakash responded by getting off the mark from the very next ball, with an untypical dragged drive over long-on for a lofted four.

As the edges continued to fly on a pitch allowing early seam movement to complement the swing also available with the new ball, Ramprakash had another close call with one which barely carried to Steven Croft in the cordon off Glen Chapple.

The introduction of Oliver Newby as first change brought some respite, Ramprakash driving three fours in one over.

But after Newby had been replaced by the spin of Gary Keedy at the pavilion end, it was Dominic Cork who struck from the opposite direction - Newman sparring a catch behind off the back foot.

Having lost his captain Mark Butcher to a mispull at Mahmood shortly after lunch, Ramprakash was to see both Walters and Benning fall to shots which failed to cover Keedy’s turn and resulted in catches in the off side ring either side of tea.

Benning had opened his account with a six off Keedy over long-off from only the third ball he faced - and both middle-order men did their bit to keep Surrey on course for a match-controlling total.

Ramprakash, meanwhile, appeared to have an appetite for the long haul - with 2,000 runs in the season for a second consecutive summer still a slight possibility - and in Jordan he found another handy ally, before closing out the day in company with Matt Nicholson.