The remarkable events on the second day of the opening Test between South Africa and Australia at Cape Town and, in particular, Nathan Lyon’s achievement in top-scoring with 14 in Australia’s meagre second innings total of 47 resulted in cricket statisticians worldwide scurrying through their record books and databases in search of other instances when the number 11 has been the top-scorer in an innings.
While it was just the eighth occurrence in Test cricket that the last man had ended up as highest scorer, there have been numerous occurrences in first-class cricket, including the County Championship match between Middlesex and Worcestershire at Lord’s in August 1996 when the rather unlikely figure of Phil Tufnell top-scored in the home side’s first innings.
It was Tufnell’s first – and only – fifty in first-class cricket, and it came in a match in which Middlesex had Mark Ramprakash at number three and Mike Gatting at number four – two men with a combined first-class aggregate in excess of 72,000 runs, plus 208 hundreds.
On this particular occasion, Ramprakash was caught off the left arm spin bowling of Richard Illingworth for 64, after Gatting had been bowled by medium-pacer Stuart Lampitt for 25. As a result, Middlesex duly ended the second day of the contest on 167 for 6, trailing Worcestershire by more than 200 runs and facing the prospect of following-on.
Illingworth and Scott Ellis made further inroads with the ball on the third morning as Middlesex slipped further to 251 for 9 before Tufnell walked to the crease, and despite a previous career-best of just 37 the slow left-arm spinner became Middlesex’s batting saviour.
What followed in the next hour was truly remarkable as Tufnell biffed fifteen fours to record his maiden Championship fifty and, together with John Carr, added 101 for the tenth wicket – only the second time since 1945 that Middlesex’s last pair had enjoyed a century stand. Their efforts meant that Gatting had the luxury of declaring on 352 for 9, just 17 runs in arrears, with Tufnell unbeaten on 67 and Carr 66 not out.
Perhaps buoyed by his efforts with the bat, Tufnell claimed four wickets in Worcestershire’s second innings before his side were set the target of 251 in 49 overs. Vikram Solanki then claimed five wickets with his off spin as Middlesex subsided to 241 for 9 before, in the closing overs of the game, Tufnell became Middlesex’s batting hero once again at No 11 as he and Jamie Hewitt blocked it out for a draw.
* For Phil Tufnell’s career statistics, go to: http://stats.thecricketer.com/Players/1/1983/statistics_lists.html