June 6, 2001

Tufnell: Forget about umpires and get on with it

Phil Tufnell

Cricket can be full of disappointments. I went to bed on Sunday night really looking forward to Monday when I was going to be captain of Middlesex against the Australians at Lord's. Monday morning, I woke up to find that I had a bout of 'flu. Not exactly life threatening, I know, but I can tell you I was absolutely gutted. There was no way I could have got out there, and had to keep up to date with what was happening while feeling utterly sorry for myself in bed. And the lads beat the Aussies. I was pleased they did, but even more sorry to have missed out myself.

It was not a great time, having just seen England lose the Old Trafford Test, but what a great match that was. An average of over three hundred runs a day, forty wickets falling. All it needed was for us to just hang to make it the ideal game. What a terrific advertisement for Test cricket, with England fighting all the way and, OK, we lost the match, but we still drew the series.

As is ever the case, when we lose a Test everyone asks the same question: where did we go wrong? At teatime on the final day, I could see no way we would lose it. But we did. A bit of tension creeps in, the new ball comes along. I have to admit that there are a few players better qualified to talk about batting to save a game (though I've had my moments with the willow and do boast a first-class fifty) but there is a danger of falling into the trap of just trying to survive. I think it's better to try to get a bit of momentum going by putting the bad ball away. As soon as you try just to survive against world-class players, you can come unstuck.

Even though we weren't going to win the game, we lost our way a bit when it came to just ticking over. And let's not forget, there was some great bowling out there, with the Pakistanis responding to the pressure that was on them. Maybe our batsmen didn't stand up to the pressure as well as they did.

When we needed 285 to win on the last day with all wickets in hand, I did think we had a bit of a chance of winning. It was still a good deck, Athers and Trescothick were going well, and I had to fancy we had a bit of a chance. The odds were stacked against us but there was a feint glimmer. But as soon as the Pakistanis realised we were only playing for a draw, all that fear of losing was taken away and they could go for it big time.

That wasn't the case at the start of the last day. Waqar would have been thinking "hang on; they only need 280-odd" and, with an average of 300 a day being scored, he must have had one eye on the runs required. So, perhaps we went for the draw a bit early, but it is difficult.

I know everyone's talking about the umpires, but I think we should just get on with it. Every time England lose a game, all the moaning starts and the umpires come in for more than their fair share. Get on with it. It's a game of cricket and if you start having all these magic eyes and I don't know what, I don't think it will be cricket any more.

Let me tell you that the game will the poorer for it if we start using all the technology around. I think all these gismos are great for the television viewers but at the end of the day it's the blokes out there doing the umpiring who have got to be left to get on with it. Obviously they've got to be the top men in a Test match, they've got to be properly trained, they've got to strong and they've got to be good, but as soon as they start having "Hawkeye", line calls, this that and the other, cricket will be dead.

I'd have probably got another few hundred wickets with the number of plumb lbw appeals I've had turned down over the years. I must admit that I used to think "cor, that had to be out!" but I've changed a bit. Laser guided missile technology. I ask you; it's just a game of cricket.

So that's the first Test series of the summer over and now we can look forward to the one-dayers. I don't think the loss at Old Trafford would have really dented England's confidence too much because there were some good points to come out of the game. It was great to see Vaughany get his Test ton, Trescothick's going from strength to strength, Thorpey's in the form of his life and Hoggard looked as if he's made of the right stuff but there have to be a few concerns about the fact that the old England collapse has raised its ugly head again. But it was a great game, and we drew the series, even if I don't really like a two match series, which is just a bit naff.

Now we move on to the NatWest Series of one-dayers and what a great triangular series this promises to be. I know it depends a bit on which side Pakistan get out of bed, but on their day they're a very exciting team to watch. And even though the Aussies have just been beaten by the Mighty Middlesex, they are world champions and have a host of fantastic players. And England, in their own back yard, are going to be full of pride and desire to do well. I think it's going to be a cracking series.