Philip Tufnell marked his first competitive match of the summer with a high-class bowling performance here yesterday, but it is no great secret that his future in the England team involves more than simply taking wickets. A team-mate once summed him up by employing the words "talented" and "dickhead" in the same sentence, and neither will Tufnell be able to use last winter's tour report as a reference for a job in the diplomatic service.
It might, in fact, come as a surprise to some to learn that the strapping wound around two of the fingers on Tufnell's right hand is not an attempt to prevent him from raising them to the world in general, but to protect a dislocation sustained on Middlesex's pre-season tour to Portugal.
They were throbbing a little more painfully last night after getting them in the way of a stinging straight drive from Dominic Ostler, although this was a comparatively rare liberty taken against him by Warwickshire's batsmen, and it was a combination of Tufnell's bowling and John Carr's predatory slip catching that prevented a rather embarrassing day for Mike Gatting.
Gatting took one look at a pitch that suggested the groundsman's lawnmower had not yet returned from its winter service, inserted the County Champions, and in mid-afternoon was contemplating a scoreboard which read 184 for 1. By tea, however, Warwickshire had declined to 224 for 7, and Middlesex would not have been displeased at restricting them to a final total of 282.
Underneath its green overcoat, the pitch was drier than a ship's biscuit, and gave more assistance to Tufnell and John Emburey than to any of the Middlesex seamers. Even so, Gatting was a touch unlucky with his insertion. There was a lunchtime ceremony in which six parachutists arrived with the 1994 Championship pennant, and all of them landed more or less on the right spot. This was not, however, a description that applied to Middlesex's pace bowlers.
Angus Fraser, handicapped by a blistered heel, and the New Zealand Test bowler Dion Nash, pitched either too short or too wide, and Nick Knight and Roger Twose put on 126 in 36 overs for the second wicket until Twose's indeterminate prod at Tufnell resulted in one of Carr's six slip catches. That was one short of the Championship record for an outfielder, held by Micky Stewart and Tony Brown.
Tufnell also accounted for Knight, who is regarded as Test match material, and the 25-year-old left-hander's 85 (152 balls, 14 fours) would have impressed the new England selector, David Graveney, as much as Tufnell's bowling.
Tufnell is often a more effective bowler on unhelpful pitches, and it was his flight, rather than any extravagant turn, which plucked away Warwickshire's middle order. Dermot Reeve sliced to cover attempting a down-the-pitch lofted straight drive, and Neil Smith popped one up to silly point.
When Tufnell had to leave the field for 20 minutes John Emburey - with more help from Carr's flypaper hands - cleaned up the tail with the last three wickets. Warwickshire, in fact, lost their last nine for 98, and life without Lara already threatens to be a little precarious.
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