I was all in favour of Mark Ramprakash being selected for the Ashes tour after Marcus Trescothick had to withdraw; with hindsight, it was clear England desperately needed the experience and technical quality of Ramprakash, who averages 42 against Australia. But his non-selection surely confirmed that his England career was long over.
Last season, Ramprakash plundered more than 2000 runs at an average of over 100; the only caveat was his runs came in Division Two. The gap between the two divisions is clearly increasing, as the exploits of the two promoted counties, Surrey and Worcestershire, bear testament to: they both lost their first three Championship games and are only now beginning to find their feet.
Yet Ramprakash’s phenomenal form has carried on apace, as he marches on to 100 first-class hundreds. He already has four hundreds from his first eight innings, which have proved he still has it in him to cope with the very best bowlers. Ramprakash made a century against a very strong Yorkshire attack; an unbeaten ton against Hampshire, which equated to more than half his side’s runs; a facile unbeaten hundred against Warwickshire; and now, 266* against Sussex. It may have been a flat pitch, but Ramprakash was able to gain the measure of Mushtaq Ahmed in a way no other player has done since he has been installed on the south coast.
These innings, in light of his efforts last season, confirm Ramprakash is playing better than ever. His brilliant innings against Warne at The Oval certainly made one wonder what would have happened had the Surrey man been in Australia down under; equally, his dexterity against spin could prove invaluable against India and Sri Lanka this calendar year. Another sign that he could now thrive at Test level is his continued refusal to give it away upon reaching three figures - a trait English batsmen have long since lacked.
Of course, Ramprakash did not do himself justice over his 52 Tests. But he is a more relaxed and less intense personality now, fully at ease with himself. At 37, it remains very unlikely he will play again; yet, considering he occupies England’s current problem position – number three – with such quality and is averaging over 100 for the second consecutive season, can England really afford not to select him? He would be a short-term selection, yes. But it's worth remembering that Graham Gooch found the best form of his career between the ages of 37 - Ramprakash’s age - and 40.