TALL TALES TEST MATCH SPECIAL by Jonathan Agnew & Phil Tufnell with Carlos Brathwaite, Ebony Rainford Brent, Isa Guha, Alison Mitchell and Aatif Nawaz

by Jonathan Agnew & Phil Tufnell with Carlos Brathwaite, Ebony Rainford Brent, Isa Guha, Alison Mitchell and Aatif Nawaz

Published by BBC Books,
An imprint of Ebury Publishing,
20 Vauxhall Bridge Road, London SW1V 2SA

Website: www.penguin.co.uk

Pages: 322

MRP: £20


Test Match Special has long been considered a national institution so it is wonderful to see another book launched celebrating, in the words on the book's cover, the good, the bad and the hilarious from the commentary box. Predominantly written by Jonathan Agnew and Phil Tufnell with a wide range of their experiences, there are also contributions from other members of the commentary box, mentioned on the cover.

Former producer Peter Baxter was also a prolific author on his subject and his books served as an excellent reminder of what many of us had enjoyed through summers past - and winters, when sleep was rare if England were touring Australia or New Zealand. Time flies, and it is easy to forget that the present incumbent, Adam Mountford, has been in his position since 2007.

I have always enjoyed an affinity towards Test Match Special and prefer to call it that despite the difficulty of saying its, to me, tongue-twisting title in full rather than its easier acronym, TMS. Or is that an initialism? I was guilty of surreptitiously slipping a radio into my school jacket pocket and attaching a lead to filter the commentary into my teenage ear and giving the impression of a surly, bored pupil during many a lesson, doubtless like many others over the country. Not, mind you, during one Vic Marks's Latin lessons which we were proud to attend and be part of. (This may have partly been due to our teacher doing more exciting things in the summer like turning out for Somerset and England rather than teaching us). I was also taught the art of scoring by another famous alumnus of the commentary box, Bill Frindall and, through him, scored for the BBC at some domestic knock-out matches. Test Match Special, therefore, has always had a more meaningful attraction to me for these fortunate reasons.

Times have changed, but it is still a joy in Tall Tales to read of some of the pranks which took part in the not desperately distant past. As Agnew himself mentions in the book on a few occasions, things which would not happen today. The book is an easy and enjoyable read doubtless in keeping with the commentary. I have always found Aggers a most natural and gifted commentator and his writing is very similar in style and enjoyable. I wonder whether he has been accused of his cheeks, mentioned on page 78, still wobbling...

Unlike Baxter's books, there are no photos in Tall Tales but a whole array of experiences given by the commentators and it has been difficult to put down. It is good to see the child in us, and it was a joy to roar with laughter at many of the excerpts mentioned between these covers.

That said, I did maybe detect the odd comment suggesting an occasional hint of frustration at the commentator's lot. In general, the whole array of colourful stories comes out: events on tours as players and commentators; former commentators, gone but certainly not forgotten, and everyone's best and embarrassing moments are all mentioned. The on-field county and Test appearances of Agnew and Tufnell make for interesting reading too. As can be expected, the book is refreshing and great fun. The japes are fondly remembered

These days, I enjoy nothing more than languishing on the Lord's Pavilion concourse with a glass of wine (but only after midday), watching the view of the cricket straight down the wicket and listening to the Test Match Special commentary through a large pair of headphones. It is less fraught than the days over forty years ago when I had to rely on the small lead going down my arm but nonetheless it is worth being aware of the potential risk of a cameraman zooming in on this odd sight. Tall Tales has been a joyful reminder that live cricket for me is not long away.