Tuffers on the top table

Middx 273 and 359-6 dec Warwickshire 251 and 252 Middlesex won by 129 runs
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You cannot keep a good man (or a good side) down. Phil Tufnell sparked Warwickshire's eventual downfall, picking up four wickets in all (he now has 37 first-class victims this season) to keep Middlesex at the top of the Second Division with an emphatic victory.

It robbed Warwickshire, who had gone into the game just a smidgen behind the leaders, of their unbeaten record this season and confirmed Middlesex as serious contenders for promotion. But for 86 minutes yesterday morning Mark Wagh and David Hemp had the home fans on the edge of their seats and Middlesex on the run with an exhilarating display of strokemaking.

Wagh in particular was in blistering form, with every one of his hard-hit shots leaving nothing in their wake for the opposition but despair.

No one was shown any respect, not even Angus Fraser, the Middlesex captain, who was dispatched for three boundaries in one over, enough to see him out of the attack, albeit temporarily. Wagh, a tall right-hander, did not miss an opportunity to drive anything over-pitched, but was equally at home rocking back and thumping through the off-side and he was perfectly prepared to use his feet against the left-arm spin of Tufnell.

Of the 16 fours credited to the 24-year-old, one was all-run and in his stay he and Hemp added 107 for the third wicket, a stand which gave the Warwickshire victory hopes a rosy hue. Sadly, once Wagh departed, clumsily pulling Tufnell to Fraser at mid-on, they began to look more like a busted flush.

Hemp, who had made a first innings hundred, lasted until after lunch, before he too fell foul of the wily Tufnell, top-edging a pull to be comfortably taken by Paul Weekes at midwicket. That effectively put the skids under the innings. Dominic Ostler had gone on the stroke of lunch; Dougie Brown looked uncharacteristically out of touch for the 19 overs he spent compiling seven runs.

And, as well as Ashley Giles did first time around, he was still feeling his way back after being out with Achilles problems. After he departed, the only resistancewas offered by Keith Piper, who had had to leave his sick bed (he was suffering from a viral infection). The rest of the side will have gone to their beds feeling even more sick last night.