Cricket: Tufnell provides light relief in the gloom

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The Independent Online
Middlesex 413 & 122-3 Warwickshire 445-9 dec Match drawn

Appalling weather and a marked reluctance by either side to give the other even a glimmer of hope of victory saw events petering out into a poor draw. Both sides ended up going through the motions, all of them slow.

There was the odd high spot. Phil Tufnell took a catch that brought laughter from the scattering of spectators as well as guffaws from his team-mates. It accounted for Paul Smith, who had hoisted a delivery from Angus Fraser into the ionosphere over wide midwicket. Out on the ropes, in front of the Tavern Stand, Tufnell tottered first one way then another before collapsing under the ball.

As he lay triumphant, flat on his back, he raised the hand that holds his cigarettes with the ball safely in it and allowed himself a broad grin before sharing high-fives with his team-mates. That was the ninth Warwickshire wicket to fall. Ten balls later rain drove them off and they declared 32 ahead on the first innings. Tufnell emerged with honours as he finished with a summer's best of 5 for 71, his second five-wicker haul of the season. He has now taken more Championship wickets (26 at around 28) than either of England's spinners for the third Test against India.

But with so many overs having been lost - a total of 102, effectively a day's play - there was little hope of salvaging anything without some crazy declarations. But Middlesex hearts were set a-fluttering in the second over of their return to the middle. Jason Harrison, struggling for a decent score, stepped back to one that kept low and fell leg before to Gladstone Small's third ball.

Two interruptions for rain later, they had lost a further two wickets. First, Jason Pooley obligingly allowed a delivery from Small to hit his stumps. Then Michael Edmond, on his Championship debut, took his first first-class wicket when he had Paul Weekes leg before for 42. That left the Middlesex opener with a pair - Weekes having also scored 42 in the first innings.

Unfortunately Edmond could not complete his opening over after tweaking his left Achilles tendon. He hobbled off to be replaced in the field by Phil Neale, Warwickshire's director of coaching.

Typically, things became more entertaining with the arrival of Richard Johnson. In what little time that remained he thumped a good-looking 37 in an unbroken partnership of 59 with Mark Ramprakash. Mercifully, more rain then cut proceedings short.

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