June 26, 2002

Tufnell's Turn - Gough's injury a major blow

Phil Tufnell

No easy pickings for Middlesex in the Championship this month - but we came through with two draws at Lord's against Durham and Glamorgan, and we've stuck to our job well. It was a good toss to win for Durham - they managed the little matter of 645 for eight - yours truly one for 137! Lord's is a bit of a bowlers' graveyard at the moment, but we bowled and batted OK, and did well to get out of that one with a draw. The Glamorgan game was ruined by the weather, but in both matches we've scored good batting and bowling points. We're third behind Derbyshire and Essex, but we've got a game in hand and still look handily placed as promotion candidates.

We're at full strength as we head off to Cardiff for the next one, and no doubt Glamorgan will be buoyed up by that sensational Wales win! It must have been an awkward one for England - it's only a warm-up for the serious stuff to follow in the NatWest Series, and it must feel almost as though you're playing against your mates. Robert Croft must have enjoyed his runs and his wickets, but I doubt whether Matthew Hoggard enjoyed anything at all! It's an odd one - he said he was lacking confidence before the Edgbaston Test, but then he came in and took a bagful of wickets. England need him to bounce straight back again on Thursday.

The loss of Darren Gough for the one-dayers is very disappointing, with Andy Caddick already out. Goughie will be sorely missed - he's our premier fast bowler, he takes wickets and bowls tightly at the death. Maybe he tried to come back from that knee injury a bit too early. I'd consider both Hampshire's Alan Mullally and Jonathan Lewis of Gloucestershire as replacements, along with Somerset's Richard Johnson and Chris Silverwood of Yorkshire. I wouldn't rule out Robin Martin-Jenkins either - he's not an opening bowler, but he's been taking wickets for Sussex and can score useful runs as well.

The NatWest Series looks wide open to me, although if you twisted my arm I'd have a flutter on Sri Lanka. They're such a good batting side, and although Murali's gone home they've always been good at fiddling overs from their part-time bowlers - people like Aravinda de Silva coming on for little spells! But saying that, England and India have got strong batting as well - with Srinath retired and both Gough and Caddick unfit, it could be harvest-time for the batsmen, and it'll certainly be hard work for the bowlers.

David Graveney said the England selectors were reaching the conclusion that the best players should be playing in both forms of the game. I'm not sure I agree. There are always specialists in either discipline - personally I enjoy the longer form more, although I haven't done badly for England in the one-dayers. And I think it's dangerous to go over the top on "bits-and-pieces" players in ODIs - but the selectors' job is never an easy one.

Hats off to the Test side anyway, for a tremendous win over Sri Lanka at Manchester to seal the series 2-0. The boys hung in there on a goodish pitch, and after Caddick broke down the other seamers kept steaming in, all day long, and Ashley Giles bowled well too. I always fancied England to get 50 off six overs at the end - a couple of boundaries, wickets in hand and you know you're on the way. I expect India to be stronger opposition than Sri Lanka in the Test series, but they don't travel too well so I'd back England to win that one too.

Paragon Sports Management
Phil Tufnell appears courtesy
of Paragon Sports Management