Tufnell's perfect timing

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The Independent Online

reports from Lord's

Middlesex 410 & 201 Kent 265 & 206 Middlesex win by 140 runs

Ray Illingworth's relationship with Phil Tufnell appears to have shifted over the weekend from incompatibility to a state of armed neutrality. By way of celebrating his recall to the England side, Tufnell accounted for Kent, picking up five of the last six wickets for 31 in 78 balls at the same time as taking Middlesex to the top of the Championship table.

They are now five points ahead of Warwickshire and eight in front of Northamptonshire. Of the four matches that each has left, none will be more important next week's meeting between Middlesex and Northamptonshire at Uxbridge.

Ironically, Tufnell did not bowl especially well when he first came on after Dion Nash had bowled a few overs of seam at the Nursery End, although Nigel Llong was dropped at the wicket in his first over. For a time, it was almost as if he was trying too hard to live up to the chairman's new- found spirit of toleration.

Neither his direction nor his length was all that it might have been and he was pulled, cut and driven. The first wicket fell to Angus Fraser in another exemplary spell from the Pavilion End. Llong played forward to one which moved up the slope and had him leg before.

Whatever slender chances of survival Kent now had rested, as they usually do, with Aravinda de Silva. He reached his second fifty of the match in 102 balls but, as in the first innings, was never able to play with the freedom he so enjoys.

It was here that Tufnell settled into the rhythm he had found on Friday - he bowled beautifully. Mark Ealham flashed at one which was neither as short or as wide as he anticipated and was caught at mid-off, and Steve Marsh pushed forward to his arm ball in the same over and was leg before.

Then, in the third over after lunch, De Silva played forward to Tufnell and was quickly caught low down at silly point. And after that it was only a question of time. In the final reckoning, Tufnell took 5 for 76 in 28.4 overs.