(Sorry for the pun. There’s no excuse for such crimes against the English language…)

“EXTRA! EXTRA! Ramps gets pair shock!”

You won’t be hearing that from your local paper boy tomorrow because county cricket is no longer front page news in these enlightened times (sigh). Nevertheless, the headline remains surprising. Today, for only the third time in 26 years of playing county cricket and, we are reliably informed by Cricinfo, only the second time in the County Championship, Mark “Ramps” “Bloodaxe” Ramprakash, the most prolific batsman in domestic cricket since Graeme Hick stopped bullying bowling attacks in 2008, undisputed batting king of London town since Graham Gooch’s retirement in 2000, scored himself a lovely pair (and on the same day to boot). In tennis parlance, he bagged himself a double bagel.

Now, getting a pair in cricket isn’t that rare, even for batsmen. Nevertheless, it’s pretty ignominious whoever you are, and when you just so happen to be a player who has dominated county bowling attacks since well before either of us were born, it does cause one eyebrow to be raised just a few millimetres. However, it’s not just the pair that will be worrying Ramps – it’s the fact that it’s the sharp end of a hopeless run of form that began way back in July last year.

It all started when he was given out ‘Obstructing the field’ against Gloucestershire at Cheltenham. In the first innings of that match, Ramprakash had scored a good if unspectacular 141, his only ton of the season. Since then, he hasn’t scored a single fifty (not even making it past 38). When you add into the mix that he only scored 3 half-centuries (other than the hundred) across the whole of last season, that ton looks increasingly anomalous. Of course, a hundred is a hundred, but it was at Cheltenham, which is known as one of the flattest tracks in the country (and as someone who has batted there, it is flat). If you were to take out that ton, the barren wastelands of his poor form stretch as far as the eye can see.

Such is Ramprakash’s (and Surrey’s) concern at his output that he even played in a 2nd XI game against Somerset 2nds last week to try to regain his touch. He made… 13 and 24*, which, bearing in mind that Somerset’s first team bowling lineup has been decimated by injury and their second team bowling attack had a sum total of 11 first class games between them, plus the fact that the not out in the second innings came with only 45 needed to win, paints a pretty bleak picture. Clearly the practice didn’t work, as today’s new low demonstrated.

Perhaps age has finally caught up with Ramps – he is, after all, 42, an age at which most professional sportsmen are retiring to spend more time with their remaining functioning limbs. Cricketers’ eyes do ‘go’, and the indications are that it could be his turn for that to happen – his return this season is just 75 runs in 10 innings at 7.5. The fact that we didn’t even need a calculator or piece of paper to add it all up is not a good sign. Of course, it could just be an extended period of poor form – every cricketer has them. However, generally good batsmen find their way out of them before too long (or get dropped) and Ramps’ has been going on for a long time now.

Maybe his drive to play is going as well – as we’ve mentioned before, he’s already stated this season that conditions have been worse for batting than he has ever experienced. His enjoyment of the game has clearly suffered during his run. He was banned for one game by Surrey last year for his reaction to the aforementioned obstructing the field dismissal, and he was also censured this season for swearing at the umpires following a dismissal against Worcestershire. It does not paint a picture of a man who is altogether loving his cricket at the moment.

We said a few weeks back that it looks increasingly likely Ramprakash would retire at the end of this season. We’ve got to say, on current form, he may well not even make it half way there.

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