July 25, 2001

Tufnell's Turn: England need 'do or die' attitude

Phil Tufnell

They're not bad, these Australians, are they? I had to watch most of the Lord's Test on television, though I did manage to get along for a while on the first day. In the flesh and on the telly, come rain or shine, I could see why these Aussies have got to the position they have.

When you have three pace bowlers like theirs coming at you, and they're backed up by Shane Warne, it makes life with the willow in hand a shade difficult. I am sure all the England boys had the idea that they would go out and get a hundred, but that's not always the way it turns out. Having said that, I thought Mark Butcher batted very well, and I was pleased to see Mark Ramprakash looking the part. In fact, when Butch and Ramps were together in the second innings they tried to take the attack to them and it looked good.

Speaking as someone approaching a major batting milestone myself, I think I can say with a certain authority that English batsmen need to take the attack to the Australians a little more, and be more positive in defence. "Do or die" is the polite way of saying what comes to mind as the way of playing them. The trouble is, if it doesn't come off and they do go bust, it looks pretty poor. At the moment, we just seem to be hanging around, waiting to be beaten.

And my batting milestone? I'm disappointed you even have to question it. Since making my debut in 1986, I have now amassed 1,954 runs. With 29 already this season, I should easily reach the magic 2,000 mark before the end of the 2003 season!

I have also been told that I am on 996 first-class wickets and so a quick mathematical calculation reveals that I need just four more for a thousand. I'm bowling well at the moment, so the bowling milestone should be reached well within a couple of weeks rather than a couple of years. Furthermore, I might just have a pint of lager to celebrate my thousandth wicket.

Some years ago I would have been screaming for the selectors to pick me and let me have a go at these Aussies. The new, mature Philip Tufnell is not so brash, but I do believe that we need to take a fresh look at the policy of fielding seven batsmen. I don't really think it has worked. The Australians have made big scores every time, so perhaps we need to think about the idea of stopping them scoring as many runs as they do. So perhaps we should be looking to more firepower to hit back. Then, even if we don't get the runs, we still have a decent chance of bowling them out.

Perhaps we could back up Gough and Caddick with the likes of Tudor and Silverwood, then if we do get rolled over for a couple of hundred, we could go out thinking we could do the same.

I know some people say we should play a spinner at Trent Bridge because it's a flat wicket, but I am not sure what the selectors are thinking at the moment. The policy has tended to be that we play spinners only when it turns. But I think a spinner should be there to give some variety and change of pace. Also, it looks as if the Aussies are handling the pace attack OK, so maybe we need to present a different kind of test for them.

I understand there was a poll on CricInfo about who the public would like to see bowling against the Aussies, and the name of Philip Clive Roderick Tufnell topped the list. I always like to think that I've entertained the public over the years and enjoyed a certain rapport with them, so it's pleasing to be given this vote of confidence but, as I say, it is up to the selectors and I'm not going to start bleating on about they must pick me, let me at 'em, and all that sort of stuff. At one time I might have done, but not now.

Don't get me wrong - I would love to get back into the England team. It would be great to represent the old country again, but as I get older and, hopefully, more mature, I'm quite prepared to see if it happens rather than going about it in as manic a way as I once would. At the moment I'm really enjoying playing for Middlesex under Angus Fraser and John Emburey, we're in a good position to go for promotion. That's what I'm focusing on and if I get wickets to help Middlesex I'm happy. If England called me, that would be absolutely fantastic as well.

If it happens, it would be a case of having a go, bowl well and be confident in the belief that you can do well and then see how it goes. At the moment I'm bowling well for Middlesex and just trying to be consistent. You have some days when everything goes right, others when it's a bit rocky, but as I get a little bit older I hope the consistency level rises. You aim to have more better days than poorer days, and make sure that the poorer days are not bad days. Experience helps you turn things round when they are not going quite right. Concentrate on doing the right things and not try to bowl the magic ball all the time.

When it comes to the Australians, they might be looking good, but we mustn't fall into the trap of thinking we can't beat them. I don't think that is the case. The boys just have to go out there and give it their best shot. I've never really believed that games are won by tactics; it's players who do the trick. Whoever the selectors go for, I wish them the very best of luck - because a bit of that doesn't go amiss, either.