Cricket: Tufnell caps the fireworks display

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The Independent Online
Warwickshire 466 and 150-8 Middlesex 297 and 373 Match drawn

BRIAN LARA, scoring a ruthless 50 in 22 balls, spearheaded a frantic run-race at Lord's yesyerday which ended, as the match had seemed certain to do at tea time, in a draw. But this was no tame affair. Quite the reverse.

After Mike Gatting, batting like a portrait of the artist as an old dog, fell only nine runs short of his 95th first-class century, a quick collapse by Middlesex's late order made a result possible. Five wickets were lost for 30 runs after tea, with Mark Wagh, put on by Lara as if to pass the time, picking up four wickets for 11 off six overs. This gave Warwickshire an improbable target of 205 off 24 overs.

At the half-way mark they were 114 for 3, and looking good, but no one had written this script, and the climax of an improvised plot meant that only three overs later, after Middlesex had taken four wickets for only 17 more runs, the outcome was impossible to predict.

In the fourth over of Warwickshire's second innings, Lara made his intentions transparent by tonking a four and a six off Tim Bloomfield. It was then that the record keepers declared that a result was possible. After all, Leicestershire had scored 204 off 19 overs to beat Northamptonshire recently.

In the fifth over, Nick Knight took stage centre, scoring nine runs, but he was still playing a supporting role to Lara's. He began the sixth over with a six to midwicket, followed it with a six to square-leg. Next ball was another six backward of square, and although the fourth ball was a mere four, it was called a no ball, leaving three to play. They went for two, dot, one. A bit anti-climactic, only 25 off the over, which meant that we had to wait until the next one for Lara's 50. At 75 for 1, though, Warwickshire were well ahead of the run-rate.

Twelve off the eighth over kept Warwickshire ahead of the pace. The first sign of a change of fortune came in the ninth when Lara played a false shot to midwicket where Gatting took a catch that had Richard Johnson leaping in the air. But Knight was still there, pulling Phil Tufnell, who had come on in the 10th over, for his first six.

Middlesex had seven men on the boundary, but the damage inflicted by Tufnell from his very first over took place close to the wicket. Keith Brown stumped Knight when the score had reached 101. Wagh was out for a single, caught off a top-edged sweep, and Graeme Welch, a famous slogger, had also managed no more than one run before David Nash caught him on the mid-wicket boundary.

Tufnell's penetrating offensive was interrupted by a memorable catch by Christopher Batt. Incidentally almost, it was Batt who had set up this storybook conclusion after coming in as nightwatchman on Friday and sharing an 87-run stand with Gatting which gave Middlesex a lead that would make Warwickshire bat hard to win. Having scored 43, his highest so far, Batt caught Anurag Singh, who mis-hit a straight drive. Turning and chasing the falling ball, Batt dived forward and made a brilliant catch inches from the ground.

When Tufnell had Michael Powell caught by Brown reaching from behind the stumps, Warwickshire had lost four wickets for nine runs and, with only 18 overs bowled and six to go, Middlesex were suddenly chasing the win. It would have been their first after following on since they beat Norttinghamshire at Trent Bridge in 1924.

But Keith Piper and Tim Munton were not intimidated by fielders who had swarmed in from the boundary to crowd the bat. In the last over Munton survived a fierce appeal, and Warwickshire finished on 150 for 8. Tufnell had taken 4 for 24, his best figures of the season. Maybe the selectors will bring him back for the Oval.