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When a Phil Tufnell no ball ruined everyone’s Christmas

by Wisden Staff 2 minute read

Phil Tufnell, speaking on BBC’s Test Match Special: Tuffers and Vaughan podcast, recalled the time he “ruined everyone’s Christmas” when he dismissed Gary Kirsten off a no ball in the 1999 Durban Test, and was left to rue his folly as the opener went on to score 275.

South Africa, following on in the Boxing Day Test, sent England on a leather hunt with Kirsten being particularly defiant, spending over 14 hours on the crease. At 33, he was trapped leg-before by Tufnell’s left-arm spin, only for the delivery to be called a no ball.

“I bowled at Gary Kirsten at Durban just before Christmas and got him out off a no ball,” Tufnell said. “He went on to score 275, which was a record. I ruined everyone’s Christmas! I ruined everyone’s Christmas!

“I couldn’t come out of the hotel room. I thought, all the children were going ‘That’s the horrible man who ruined my Christmas’.”

Tufnell sent down 45 overs in the innings, failing to capture a single wicket as South Africa mounted a stunning defence, piling up 572-7 after being shot out for just 156 in their first innings. It was Mark Butcher’s gentle off-spin that finally accounted for Kirsten, ending his 642-ball stay at the crease.

Tufnell, at the far end of his career by then, went on to play only two more Tests for England, admitting that such a mistake lingers far more heavily on a young bowler’s conscience.

“I did feel the weight of that, I mean it was towards the end of my career perhaps, you do take those things on board as a youngster, don’t you? You think it’s all your fault and it is this and that. And that’s when the team has to come up and say ‘Come on, it’s still Christmas. Try and enjoy. It’s not your fault, Phil. But I know you thought it was!'”

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