As the England cricket team prepare for their Test match against Pakistan next week, thousands of primary pupils will be learning the rudiments of the game under a new scheme launched last week by the Youth Sport Trust, writes Diane Spencer.
Chris Lewis, Surrey and England fast bowler, joined Mark Ramprakash, Middlesex and England batsman, at the Oval in coaching some of the 320 children taking part in the London Schools' Kwik Cricket Festival.
The scheme is part of the Sports Council's national junior sports programme. Called Top Sport and involving nine other games, it is supported by the Sports Council, the National Lottery and BT.
Over the next three years the cricket scheme, based on the well-established Kwik cricket game, should reach two million children in 10,000 primary schools. Local clubs will also be encouraged to join BT Top Sport cricket.
Schools get a huge "cricket coffin" containing a Kwik cricket set with bats and balls, markers and tees for batting practice. Teachers get resource cards, devised with the help of physical education experts.
"They can involve all children including those with disabilities. They are accessible to non-specialist teachers and every child," said Sue Campbell, director of the Youth Sport Trust. "The scheme is not designed to turn children into first-class cricketers by the age of nine, but we want them to be 'movement literate' by 11. They should be able to run, jump, catch and throw. It will help their balance, co-ordination and movement."
Teachers have to take a four-hour training course run by a PE adviser to learn the basics before they get the equipment.
Marie Blakeley, a Year 6 teacher at Cooper's Lane primary in Lewisham, south London, is enthusiastic about Kwik cricket, which she started to teach four years ago. A PE specialist, she hated cricket but was converted after taking a course run by the borough in return for a free set. Now most of her class, including girls, have graduated to the proper game and have joined clubs.
She has three asthma sufferers and a boy with Perthes disease (a rare disease of the hip) in her team. "Kwik cricket is a brilliant game. Everyone can join in," she said.