Book review: Tuffers’ Alternative Guide to the Ashes by Phil Tufnell

Growing up in the Seventies meant that cricket was all about the Aussies… even for a boy who would one day play for England.

Thursday, 22nd May 2014, 10:00 am
Tuffers Alternative Guide to the Ashes by Phil Tufnell
Tuffers Alternative Guide to the Ashes by Phil Tufnell

That young Cockney lad was Phil Tufnell, the left-arm spin bowler whose 42 Test matches, 20 one-day internationals and legendary sense of fun have made him a big personality both on and off the pitch.

Tuffers, as he is best known, took more than 1,000 wickets in his first class career between 1990 and 1997 but in more recent times, he has bowled over TV audiences as the winner of I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here! in 2003 and as a long-running contestant in 2009’s Strictly Come Dancing.

He is also a popular team captain on A Question of Sport and one of the star turns on Test Match Special on BBC Radio 5 live.

Irrepressibly mischievous and notorious for his high jinks, Tuffers has found a new career as an author and here he follows up last year’s bestselling Tuffers’ Cricket Tales with a new collection of hilarious Ashes stories and anecdotes.

Drawing on incidents from his own colourful career and the reminiscences of great English and Aussie cricket characters, both past and present, Tuffers highlights all the elements that make for a truly memorable Ashes series.

From heroic performances and ‘bonkers’ selections to cultural clashes between Poms and Ockers, Tuffers give us a unique take on the whole Ashes experience.

‘Playing in Australia,’ he tells us, ‘was very sexy… everyone wanted to go there.’ From the moment he started working his way up at Middlesex County Cricket Club in the Eighties, all the senior pros assured him that Australia was the best country they had ever toured.

That’s where you made your reputation as a cricketer, and had a brilliant time doing it, so lucky for Tuffers that his introduction to Test cricket was an Ashes tour and the discovery that there is nothing the Aussie players like better than a player with ‘a free-spirited side.’

Of course, that didn’t mean that he wanted the Aussies to win. As an English cricketer, there was still no country he wanted to beat more than Australia, and the feeling was certainly mutual.

There is always plenty of patriotic pride and passion in a meeting of the two old adversaries for a unique sporting institution which dates back 131 years and has often spilled over into pushes, punches and even a car-park dust-up at the Adelaide Oval in 2010.

So who else to give us a blow-by-blow account of the fierce feuds, dubious tactics, personality clashes, slanderous sledges, strange superstitions, outrageous antics and nail-biting finishes than one of the game’s greatest characters?

Threaded through with his love and knowledge of cricket and full of cheeky humour and cricketing history, Tuffers’ Alternative Guide to the Ashes is the perfect warm-up for next year’s big showdown.

(Headline, paperback, £8.99)