A moving delivery from the Estuary man

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Postcards from the Beach (CollinsWillow, pounds 6.99, paperback)

By Phil Tufnell

IF YOU fail to laugh when you buy this (and there is no question of you not buying it, if you know what's good for you) then you are sadly lacking in something.

As tour diaries go, this collaboration with the Mail On Sunday cricket correspondent Peter Hayter is a rare bird, in that it works.

Tufnell appears happy, eager even, to let out a little more of his private self. The image of Estuary man with a habitual fag dangling from finger or mouth is one that has always sat a trifle uneasily on the Middlesex and England left-arm spinner's shoulders.

When you have read this entertaining, informative, absorbing account of last winter's journey to the West Indies, you put down the book and take up a completely new approach to the man.

He likes a laugh, but often at himself. His quoting of the England and Wales Cricket Board chairman Lord McLaurin's comment to him when wishing the chaps well at the start of the tour sets the tone for the whole book: "Good luck Athers," said his Lordship. "Good luck Angus ... Ah, Tufnell ... you will try not to get into trouble, won't you?"

The running commentary during the Tests can border on the hilarious. Tufnell readying himself to face the West Indies fast bowling borders on the farcical - and yet he is so serious about it all.

There are fascinating revelations about dressing room superstition and, while Hayter and Tufnell capture the tension every time, they balance it with other odd moments.

The third Test is as good an example as any. England need 57 for victory, have six wickets in hand and Tufnell, already revealed as an appaling spectator, cannot bear it any longer. He decides to listen to a CD of dance music and soon the tension eases. When it has played through: "I climb the stairs back to the dressing room, fifty two and a half minutes later," he writes, "to discover that during that time we have scored SEVEN RUNS. SEVEN [his capital letters]."

He also permits himself to criticise the umpires from time to time. But the book is also studded with moving moments and comments from outside the game. Tufnell is an avid reader of local papers and from time to time the cricket is punctuated with odd, funny and sad tales from everyday Caribbean life.

When Atherton resigned from the captaincy Tufnell steers clear of outright sentimentality, while simultaneously expressing just how moved the England squad was when the news was broken to them.

If you are lucky enough you may be on a cricket ground where Tufnell, doting father of Poppy, husband to the long-suffering Lisa, and now author, will be available to sign it.

David Llewellyn

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