Tufnell star turn

Middlesex 338 Leicestershire 284-4

MIDDLESEX had an utterly dispiriting day against Leicestershire at Uxbridge yesterday, and no one felt it more keenly than Phil Tufnell. If there were an Olivier Award for appealing, Tufnell's performance would have won him a nomination, though if his luck yesterday was anything to go by, he would not have won.

To have a chance to beat Warwickshire to the top of the championship table, Middlesex needed this placid Uxbridge wicket to take spin. And so it did, especially when Tufnell flighted the ball properly. But Vince Wells (124) rode his luck and Hansie Cronje (84) strutted his stuff and at the close Leicestershire were only 66 runs behind with six wickets standing. A result is unlikely.

The day began inauspiciously for Middlesex when only 99 runs were added for the loss of six wickets, leaving them 12 short of the 350 needed to score a fourth batting point.

When he played on at 154 Mark Ramprakash was only 41 short of 2,000 runs, and this has - apart from the match that counted most - been a vintage year for him. Perhaps this vintage will travel.

Tufnell came on to bowl in the sixth over of Leicestershire's innings and was threatening right away, getting bounce and spin. There were five men close to the wicket, and Darren Maddy, having survived an appeal off pad and helmet was soon out off bat and pad for five. Leicestershire were 14 for one, and Tufnell looked like a match winner.

During the course of the next four hours he began to look more like a Victorian tragedian, crouching in disbelief at the rejection of another appeal, muttering in the outfield, and laughing bitterly at his fate. The umpire Barrie Meyer remained unmoved, wrongly so, when Wells nicked Tufnell to the wicketkeeper.

But Tufnell did tend to bowl too quick and short. James Whitaker played him carelessly to cover, but he had to wait until the last 10 minutes of the day before Wells gave an easy catch to John Carr at first slip (Tufnell appealed to Meyer, to make quite sure). Cronje, pushing forward, finally gave a bat-pad catch to Gatting. It was the last ball of the day.

Tufnell had taken all four wickets to fall. They took 35.4 overs and cost 96 runs. Even so, it is a day he would prefer to forget.

So would Middlesex.

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