Cricket: Tufnell triggers collapse

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The Independent Online
Gloucestershire. .299 and 95

Middlesex. .180 and 141-5

OVER the past two seasons county wickets have been bleached and pressed like a Sunday tablecloth, with fear of penalty-point deductions persuading groundsmen to favour the bat. No sooner has the four-day Championship arrived in Bristol than a lip-smacking, three- day track has appeared with a greenish tinge and hidden landmines for bowlers to probe for.

On such a wicket, Gloucestershire's first innings lead of 119 looked useful. As it was, in spite of making a complete mess of their second innings, Gloucestershire had a fair target to defend. Even fairer when they dismissed the Middlesex openers for 11, though Mike Gatting and Mark Ramprakash, in what was comfortably the most confident partnership of the match, put the state of the wicket into perspective.

The morning showed that Angus Fraser is lumbering in once more with his old force, and that the bustling Mark Feltham could prove a useful addition to the Middlesex seam attack following his migration across the Thames from The Oval.

But it was the spinners who changed Gloucestershire's unadventurous though reasonably safe start into a collapse which only Mark Alleyne, studding his innings with elegant boundaries, did anything to arrest.

Phil Tufnell, finding abrupt turn from the rough and squawking appeals at every opportunity, enjoyed one of those days when circumstances encouraged his undoubted but easily-disturbed talent. John Emburey, even more grudging with runs, shared the booty with a controlled, high-bouncing display.

Before tea Gatting and Ramprakash, scoring at four an over, indicated a desire for a Sunday lie-in at home. It did not prove that easy in fading light, and though Ramprakash illuminated Middlesex's evening with an unbeaten 68, Gloucestershire had fought their way back into the game at the close.