Tufnell takes the salute

Middlesex 352-9 dec Worcestershire 369 and 89-4
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Yesterday morning the most likely result was that Worcestershire would beat Middlesex by an innings. By yesterday evening Worcestershire were 106 ahead with six wickets standing and it looked as if Middlesex might win fairly comfortably on Monday. When they say cricket is a funny old game, they are being deadly serious.

The principal architect of the transformation of this game was Phil Tufnell, the most prominent outsider in English cricket. After his performance here, Raymond Illingworth ought to relent and pick Tufnell for the Oval - as an all-rounder.

In 10 years playing for Middlesex Tufnell's highest score was 37. The triumphalist "see me" gesture, by which the batsman points his bat at his colleagues in the dressing room, lay entirely outside his experience.

Yesterday Tufnell was able to do so twice, first when he got to 38, and again when he reached 50. He was the dominant partner in an improbable unbroken last-wicket stand with John Carr of 101 which enabled Mike Gatting to declare only 17 runs behind Worcestershire's 369.

Tufnell seemed to have done all that could be expected of him by hanging around for long enough to allow John Carr to score a laborious fifty. To begin with, Carr shielded Tufnell, but when Tom Moody came on Tufnell slashed four boundaries over the slips. Moody retaliated by placing eight men on the off-side, four of them in the slips and gulley, and still Tufnell sliced the ball to the ropes.

Tufnell never moved his feet, but that is evidence of the improvement in his batting; formerly he moved them toward square leg. As time went by, he was scoring through the covers and, eventually over the head of mid-off. There were 15 fours in his jubilant 67 not out.

Tufnell was back in the front line in the eighth over of Worcestershire's second innings and, just before tea Philip Weston was caught by Gatting off bat and pad. Graeme Hick survived Tufnell's first ball, which saved him from the indignity of a king pair, but lasted only 14 more as Tufnell drew him foward and had him caught behind for seven.

He bowled unchanged until the close, when his figures were two for 21 from 22 overs. His absence from the Test squad is a blot on English cricket.