Penguins Stopped Play by Harry Thompson John Murray, $195 Penguins Stopped Play is (yet) another volume about the antics of Captain Scott's XI, a cricket team of varying ability and fame, who were previously written about by Marcus Berkmann - he then formed a breakaway team and wrote a book about them, too. Three books between two men on ostensibly the same bunch of inept village cricketers could be considered just a tad over-indulgent, and although, after a plodding first few chapters, Penguins does raise a smile here and there, it suffers from an incurable problem: Berkmann got there first. This is compounded by the fact that anyone who has played village cricket has a kit-bag of their own outrageous, amplified tales to tell, and much like listening to someone earnestly recount their youthful athletic exploits (' ... oh really? I once got to the Berkshire under-19s 2nd XI trials, you know') it can be plain boring. We've all got those stories, and just happening to have Hugh Grant in your side is little compensation. That said, in isolation the book is not without charm. Once it progresses from the oh-so-entertaining stories about captaining the oh-so-entertaining Scott players at home and moves to the team's fractious world tour, things pick up. The characters are no longer all lovable rogues; the stories are more believable (and interesting); and there are a couple of pages devoted to Hong Kong, where Scott's men played against the Kowloon and Hong Kong cricket clubs, and did the usual tourist things. For some reason, there's a small, warm dollop of satisfaction gained from reading a book that touches on places with which you're familiar. Discovering that Scott's XI played against Guiting Power, an idyllic Cotswolds village that formed part of my young cricketing life, produced the effect again. About half the book is taken up with the vagaries of village cricket, and although it's not as entertaining as the tour - there's just less empathy with the goings-on - there is an interesting take on the peculiarities of the game in England. Reading improbable wickets, knowing where the good teas are, last-minute rule changes, asking complete strangers if they fancy a game to make up the numbers - all are familiar to the club cricketer, and all are treated with the humour they deserve. The world tour though, is where Thompson comes good. Not only are the cricketing tales better, but he excels as a travel writer. His synopses of Buenos Aires, Singapore and other cities are a treat, encapsulating their idiosyncrasies and proffering something different should you visit. The book's tragic epilogue, written by the author's wife, is short and moving. Harry Thompson died of cancer on November 7 last year, not long after finishing Penguins Stopped Play. Although someone can be anyone they want to be in a book, you get the impression Thompson really was a nice guy. He comes across as a witty, compassionate and artistically inclined cricket nut; the compassion illustrated by the fact that he splashed a fair part of his life savings on his teammates to keep the world tour going. If you're a confirmed cricket nut, haven't read either of Berkmann's books on the side and are prepared to put up with the slow beginning, Penguins is an entertaining wheeze. If you've read the first two, the third - written in similar style - might seem an unnecessary return to old territory.