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Neil Drysdale: Paul Hoffmann moves effortlessly from the covers to the page with successful new book

Paul Hoffmann once bowled a doughnut at Aberdeenshire’s Neil Macrae.
Paul Hoffmann once bowled a doughnut at Aberdeenshire’s Neil Macrae.

Paul Hoffmann was in rueful mood at the weekend. His new book has soared towards the top of the Amazon charts, but he was forced to settle for second spot after being pipped at the post by Andrew Flintoff.

As Hoffmann said: “If it wasn’t for Freddie releasing a book where he has a good whinge, I would have been Number One…”, but then he burst into laughter at the thought of an Uddingston-based schoolteacher challenging the Test legend and presenter of Top Gear.

That story sums up the former Scottish star, who has revealed in the pages of How to Bowl Faster and Take More Wickets, how he once bowled a doughnut to one of his international colleagues at Mannofield.

Indeed, the Granite City looms large in his recollections. Hoffmann, who won 119 international caps and participated in the 2007 World Cup in the West Indies, has also spoken about being attacked by an angry gull and having to seek shelter in the changing rooms while playing at the home of Aberdeenshire CC.

The work chronicles his remarkable journey from Rockhampton in Australia to Uddingston in Lanarkshire, before becoming one of Scotland’s most successful performers. And he told the Press and Journal about some of his more unusual Mannofield memories.

He recalled: “I used to love the teas when we played at Aberdeenshire and they had the biggest doughnuts I had ever seen. During one match there in 1998, our scorer commented on their size and said they could be used as a cricket ball.

“And that put the thought in my head. When we went out to bowl, I knew I was going to be up against Neil Macrae, who was always very focused.

“So, with my first delivery, I bowled a doughnut at Neil to try to get him out of his bubble. My aim was to do it, so it reached [wicket-keeper] Bryan Clarke on the full.

“But it exploded in mid air and doughnut crumbs were strewn all over the pitch. Clarke, being the class clown, ripped off his gloves and started eating the crumbs.

Neil Macrae was once bowled a doughnut at Mannofield.

“Then the umpire told me off, which I deserved. And Macrae went on to score a few runs and we lost the game, so the strategy definitely didn’t work.

“But, apart from that, Mannofield has so many great memories for me and I had a better record there with Scotland than at any other ground.

“The pitch normally offered something for the seamers and I would spend a lot of time in (former Shire groundsman) Ken McCurdie’s shed talking ground machinery and grass science.

“My best figures for Scotland were against Namibia in Aberdeen in 2006. I took eight for 26 off 24 overs, and although I was 36 and a few yards slower than I was at my prime, I made the ball talk during that game, so it was very enjoyable.

Mannofield has been a grand sporting venue for more than 150 years.

“In fact, the support for Scotland at Mannofield was always brilliant and I loved nothing more than going into the clubhouse after a game and chatting to the locals.”

However, as he recounted, not all the locals were quite as friendly.

Hoffmann added: “My worst experience up there was from 2005 when we lost to Ireland in the Intercontinental Cup by three runs when we were only chasing 135.

“But my second worst was being pooped on by a giant seagull in 1999 when I was playing for Uddingston.

“I was sunning myself on a bench when a huge piece of gull crap landed in the middle of my forehead. I jumped up, but then this white stuff poured down my nose and into my chin.

“My teammates were all laughing, but it wasn’t funny. I had to bolt to the changing room for a shower and I was always wary of the threat from the gulls after that.”

Hoffmann has used the lockdown to positive effect, but he understands the difficulties faced by the current generation of Scotland stars who have been denied any action this year.

That’s why he has urged the ICC to establish a tournament in Dubai during the winter, which allows the Associate countries an opportunity to compete against one another in a secure environment, as has happened with the Indian Premier League in recent weeks.

He said: “The IPL has been a big success in the bubble and it could work for the Associates.

“The players must be so frustrated at not being able to get any cricket, so an IPL-style T20 tournament featuring the likes of Scotland, Ireland, Bangladesh, Zimbabwe, Afghanistan, the UAE, the Netherlands and possibly Papua New Guinea would be just the tonic.”

In the meantime, the doughnuts will have to be reserved for eating. Which has never been a problem for this larger-than-life character.

Hoffmann’s new book is available in paperback or as an ebook on Amazon.

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