IN TERMS of exchange rates, Middlesex appear to be faring a good deal better than England at present. While Mark Ramprakash has failed once again to do his talents justice at The Oval, Phil Tufnell, who crossed the Thames in the other direction on Thursday morning, is thoroughly enjoying himself here, albeit even more with bat than ball.
Promotion to No 10 is a rare honour for Tufnell. When he joined John Emburey yesterday morning, 'Ernie' was still three runs short of marking his 41st birthday with his seventh first-class century, and Allan Lamb had every reason to believe the end of a frustrating innings was in sight.
Instead the ninth-wicket pair clouted the seamers to all parts in a stand worth 53 in nine overs, Tufnell having the temerity to be the dominant partner with six fours in a season's best effort of 30 not out. Emburey finally perished as he had prospered, with an ungainly pull off Curtly Ambrose, but by now Northamptonshire were on their knees.
Middlesex's success in garnering three batting points was not to be sniffed at. Not only was this the first time this season that any side has managed as many against Northants, Emburey's entertaining resistance also ensured that the visitors were restricted to two bowling points, terminating an impressive sequence of 10 maximum hauls in succession.
Their batting has been notably less proficient and their anxiety against the new ball here amplified the sense of under-achievement. Appearing in the Championship for the first time since June, Norman Cowans recalled his salad days, darting his fifth ball away to have Nigel Felton caught behind, then pinning Alan Fordham in front with a full length ball in his third over. Lamb embarked with a sumptuous cover-driven boundary off Cowans, only to depart leg-before shortly afterwards to a Mark Feltham delivery that squatted alarmingly.
Rob Bailey and Mal Loye were left to repair the damage, Loye unfurling some elegant drives and Bailey digging in dutifully as the fourth wicket yielded 88. Loye then let himself down, bowled essaying a rash charge at Tufnell and Kevin Curran soon fell, also to Tufnell.Reuse content