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Hit for six

MCCMasterclass, Two-video set, Pounds 24.99 from MCC, Lords Cricket Ground, London NW8 8QN, or individually for Pounds 12.99 from bookshops Graham Hart learns the art of cricket from some of the sport's great players. As England begin their perennial battle for the Ashes, it is a good time to look up Merlin Television's ambitious six-hour set of cricket masterclasses, recently produced in association with MCC.

Slow-motion replays, the use of diagrams, annotation and footage of the experts at work in real matches are all used to good effect. Most important of all, however, expert advice is provided in person by a range of "masters".

The masters, 12 mostly recently-retired cricketing greats, cover every aspect of the game. Who better than Dennis Lillee and Richard Hadlee on bowling and Geoffrey Boycott and David Gower on batting? Mike Brearley discusses the subtleties of captaincy and, with the younger cricketer in mind, a lithe and electric Jonty Rhodes explains how fielding can win matches.

There is something special about coaching when it is provided by players of this calibre. Geoffrey Boycott, firm and authoritative, conjures up a world where aspiring young cricketers go to bed dreaming about tomorrow's innings.

Dennis Lillee, with his gentle Australian drawl, explains the finer points of fast bowling to a succession of young hopefuls. One of the beauties of individual classes is that the players, in coaching and conversation, are far removed from the demons they appear in tests. So the terrifying Lillee is approachable and friendly, Mike Brearley uncomplicated but determined, and even Ray Illingworth seems like a nice bloke.

You'll have to watch the set to find out all the surprises, but the effort will be repaid just to see David Gower in action. After talking us through a few deliveries, he plays a Goweresque I'm-a-bit-too-good-for-this kind of shot for which he has become so famous and promptly gets caught in the covers.

For schools, these are excellent resources. With individual coaching time strictly limited, these represent a first-rate investment. The 12 master classes are supplemented by a basic introduction to the key skills and a brief history of the MCC. In the days of television rating battles and floodlit matches, it is refreshing to note just how much time MCC devotes to taking the game to its roots, both in playing and coaching.

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