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Last Updated: Sunday, 24 December 2006, 01:27 GMT
Strictly success for Ramprakash
Mark Ramprakash and dance partner Karen Hardy
Ramprakash is the second cricketer to win the contest

Former England cricketer Mark Ramprakash has won the latest series of BBC One's Strictly Come Dancing.

The 37-year-old, who still plays for Surrey, and partner Karen Hardy beat ex-rugby union star Matt Dawson, 34, and Lilia Kopylova after a public vote.

The winning couple were awarded 40 out of 40 for one dance in the live final, which attracted 12m votes from viewers.

Ramprakash follows in the footsteps of another ex-England cricketer, Darren Gough, who won the show's last series.

The series sees celebrities paired with professional dancers and they are challenged to learn new dances in a week.

The winners beat off competition from 13 other dancing couples, with one pair having been voted off the show every week since the series began in October.

I am always amazed at the standard of the dancers throughout all of the series but somehow this year has been exceptional
Host Bruce Forsyth

After the winners were announced on Saturday's live final, Ramprakash hugged his family before thanking his dancing partner, who was speechless and crying with happiness.

Ramprakash said: "It has been an absolute privilege to be on the show.

"From the very first day I met Karen Hardy she has given me the experience of a lifetime."

He added: "I want to compliment all the dancers here. Anyone could have won it tonight."

For the final show, Dawson, who won the rugby World Cup with England in 2003, chose the waltz and samba as his personal favourites to perform with partner Lilia Kopylova.

Ramprakash plumped for the tango and salsa with Hardy.

Matt Dawson and dance partner Lilia Kopylova
Dawson had put a bet on himself for charity

The two finalists also performed a dance chosen by the judges - a Viennese waltz and a new show dance.

Ramprakash and Hardy were described as "sensational" by the judges on the final programme and were awarded a maximum 40 out of 40 for their salsa.

"I am always amazed at the standard of the dancers throughout all of the series but somehow this year has been exceptional," said the show's host Bruce Forsyth.

Other previous winners of the show have been former EastEnders actress Jill Halfpenny and BBC newsreader Natasha Kaplinsky.




SEE ALSO
Bunton misses out on dance final
16 Dec 06 |  Entertainment
Schmeichel voted off Come Dancing
19 Nov 06 |  Entertainment
Shayne and Gough win talent shows
17 Dec 05 |  Entertainment

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