September 3, 2002

Tufnell's Turn

Phil Tufnell

The international season is building up to a great climax as England and India head to The Oval at one-all and winner takes all. I do hope that the England boys go there in the right frame of mind and now too down hearted after what happened at Headingley. The Indians will be more upbeat about the situation, but I think that England should take note of what else has happened during the summer and not dwell on a single bad match.

They should go out there and rely on the qualities that have been evident so far this season and I think it will prove to be a great occasion. They need to fall back on the confidence they'd been building up before those bad days in Leeds. They need to go and enjoy it and not get too nervous about it all.

Everyone is saying that the pitch at The Oval will suit the Indian spinners and I know from personal experience that there will be turn and bounce for them as the game progresses. Having said that, I also know that if you lose the toss, it is a belter of a batting wicket early on. But we can't get worried about the toss or what their bowlers might do. We've got to go out and bowl how we have been all summer until we got to Headingley and just relax and enjoy it all.

If they worry about the performance at Headingley, they won't perform properly at The Oval. Apart from possible the Australians, no team wins all the time, and even the Aussies get it wrong sometimes. The England boys have got to react to the situation now. This is when they need to stand up and be counted and produce, because this sort of match is why the players are involved in Test cricket. They should want to get out there and prove themselves in front of what is always a big, noisy crowd.

It was only a year ago that I was receiving my Oval call up to go and play against Australia. Now I'm battling to beat an ankle injury - just to disprove the theory that I don't turn anything nowadays! I thought it might have been a stress fracture and I would be lucky to get away without it being amputated. But now I am hoping to be back helping Middlesex towards promotion, hopefully as Division Two champions.

I was absolutely gutted the other day at Lord's when we lost to Derbyshire. Speaking as someone who has just gone past the 2,000 run mark in my first-class career, I like to think of myself as something of an all-rounder, and I can honestly say that I was batting like one as we fought for a draw. 59 balls I faced, with great fortitude, as I hung on for an hour and twenty minutes and then, just as we were in sight of safety, I was given out lbw. I felt like a proper batsman as I trudged off -absolutely spewing because I hadn't managed to keep Ashley Noffke company through to the end. Normally, I just go on my way with scarcely a backwards glance, but not this time.

So now I am hoping to be fit to resume against Essex in the vital promotion clash at Chelmsford. It's a real 40 pointer, with them being second and us first, but all the promotion contenders have a game in hand over us. We don't play in the last round of matches, but that's not as bad for us as it might seem. There's a chance the other games will be affected by the weather at that time of year and the fact that all our rivals are playing one another means that there shouldn't be any silly declarations that could have an influence on the final table.

When a season builds up like this, I think it's great for the game and really justifies the two divisions and promotion and relegation. If it all goes horribly wrong for us, though, I think I'll reserve the right to rethink that one.

Paragon Sports Management
Phil Tufnell appears courtesy
of Paragon Sports Management