Fake diaries, real good fun
The secret to Alan Tyers' remarkable line in cricket satire is plausibility. It is all too easy to mock a sport that lends itself to ridicule like few others, and heaven knows there are enough contemporary players out there who need little assistance, with their endless obsession with "good areas" and the like.
However, the particular type of fun that Tyers pokes at the game is so well targeted it rarely fails to hit the spot. Every scenario he imagines takes credulity to breaking point, but almost never beyond, so that there's always a part of you willing to believe that Fred "The Demon" Spofforth really did sell his soul to the devil in exchange for 14 wickets at The Oval in the Ashes match of 1882, or that Mike Gatting's blood-sugar levels were crashing through the floor when Shane Warne stuffed him at Old Trafford in 1993.
His latest book, Crickileaks, imagines the secret diaries of 40 cricket personalities (or lack thereof, in the case of a select handful), and places the reader in a situation that might well be instantly recognisable to the anorak reader, although often the fun of each 400-word entry is to work out exactly what the punchline might prove to be. Thus we are presented with David Gower and Graham Gooch in a hotel lobby at 4am on January 20, 1991, a date that soon transpires to be the eve of Gower's infamous Tiger Moth flight over the Carrara Oval in Queensland.
For Crickileaks Tyers has collaborated again with the excellent illustrator Beach, whose role is less forthright than it had been in their first book, WG Grace Ate My Pedalo, but every bit as integral. He imagines what the cover of each published diary might be - from Glenn McGrath's Bravo Five Zero to The Unbearable Rightness of Being (by) Geoffrey Boycott. Mind you, The Huffalo by Ricky Ponting is possibly one to avoid reading to your children at bedtime.
It's the sort of book that can easily be devoured in one sitting but lends itself to endless revisiting - on the khazi, inevitably, because it's quite simply that type of read. There's enough in-your-face humour to appeal to all visitors, though the best digs are also the most subtle - the type that most cricket fans would recognise and relish as in-jokes. Thus Mike Brearley's miserable time at the hands of Jeff Thomson in 1977 is redressed as a succession of psychotherapy sessions, while Denis Compton's plug-laden entry makes you realise what a mercy it is that Twitter had not been invented in 1936.
The blurb inside the familiar primrose-yellow dust-jacket declares that this is Tyers and Beach's last book together, though I sincerely hope that is not the case - and so too, one imagines, does their publisher, Wisden, for whom Pedalo and Crickileaks have proved invaluable tools in their drive to attract a new audience.
It's always been a funny old game, but in this company it's hilarious.
Alan Tyers, Beach
A&C Black, £9.99
Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo