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With summer approaching, the Wide World Of Sport team and Roadshow have come together to produce another fine addition to the growing collection of Cricket DVDs. In the first instalment in a three-part series, The Vintage Performances highlights some of the great cricketing achievements from Australia and around the globe. If this DVD is anything to go by, the next two pieces in the “Connoisseur Series” surely won’t disappoint.

Many of you will find the current schedule of international matches around the world far from enough to fulfil your appetite for exciting, compelling cricket. And with so much rain about there will undoubtedly be even more times when this little disc will seem like a godsend. Those ratty old VHS collections of Australia’s one-day heroics or boxes full of past test series’ can now be abandoned for a compact little disc containing most of the footage you’ll ever want to watch more than once. And the good news is the rest of it is coming up in the next two parts of the series.

Being an Australian-made disc there is the inevitable amount of Aussies dominance but other remarkable feats from foreign players have at least balanced the content a little. Witness Mark Taylor’s record score of 334 and his struggle to decide between batting on and a sporting declaration which would have left him tied with Sir Donald Bradman as Australia’s highest individual scorer in a Test Match. Most of you will know the outcome of that one. For those that don’t, I won’t spoil it for you cause this segment is well worth a watch.

The rest of the disc is equal in quality. Pint-sized batting wizard Brian Lara makes an appearance, with his first test century covered in great detail. Shane Warne relives the now famous delivery to England’s Mike Gatting, his first ball in test cricket. And he seems to enjoy reliving the moment too. Also look out for detailed accounts of the 1977 Centenary Test, Justin Langer & Adam Gilchrist’s mammoth partnership in 1999, Michael Bevan’s one-day heroics against the Windies and the showdown between Dennis Lillee and Viv Richards in the summer of ’76. All that is just the tip of the iceberg in a disc that runs for around 80 minutes excluding the features that add even more length to a quality package.

Cricket - The Vintage Performances
Possibly the greatest factor that makes this disc stand out from the numerous other DVD and VHS cricket highlights packages is the lengthy interviews with players, commentators and administrators as well as the introductions by none other than good ol’ Ken Sutcliffe. It’s obvious some serious time and effort went into making this one a cut above the rest and it shows. Too often sports videos are just a collection of clips that the work experience guy put together in his lunchtimes. I doubt he would have been let anywhere near this one, judging by the obvious thought that went into the production. We get to hear from cricket greats such as the Chappell brothers, Merv Hughes, Mark Taylor, Rod Marsh, Richie Benaud, Tony Grieg and a host of current player from around the world who provide their thoughts on some of the best moments in test and one-day cricket over the past forty years. The interviews impart details not covered in the footage and the selection of quality moments from cricket history is top notch.  If that’s not enough to make you buy this one, you probably never will.

Obviously the transfer quality is going to depend largely on the quality of recording materials in each specific era. On the whole, however, everything looks quite impressive, with the recent material coming up wonderfully sharp and detailed. It’s never looked better. Footage from the earlier years is a little less sharp and lacks the detail of the more recent recordings but is still very pleasing to the eye considering the technical limitations of that time frame. Colours come out well, even though this is probably one disc where you won’t need to marvel at the bright yellow and green pants of Michael Bevan to be satisfied. Let’s just say there’s no problem finding the little red ball as it sails into the stands off of Brian Lara’s bat. You could probably almost see which way the seam is pointing, now that I think about it.

The footage is presented in 4:3 as all of the images were part of television broadcasts. The transfer is as good as cricket will look at this point in time.

Cricket - The Vintage Performances
Very little to report here, with the Dolby 2.0 track doing everything required to replicate the exact moments we watched these highlights live on TV. Being made for television there is obviously no need for anything more detailed, nor would there be any demand. Unless you want Warnie’s comments from the dressing room heard faintly in your rear speakers….

To ensure this disc stands out from the (*shudder*) VHS version there are quite a few worthwhile additions that really add weight to the whole package. Even though the majority of the extras are just extensions on the segments we have seen, all of them appeal to the cricket nut or just anyone who wants more detail on a particular event. Quality all ‘round.

We are firstly treated to more footage of the Langer/Gilchrist partnership, which contains around ten minutes of highlights and is a worthwhile addition to the disc. The other extended footage pieces contain more on Greg Chappell’s last match, more clips of Brian Lara in action with his 277 and additional details on the closest ever test match between Australia and the West Indies.

The best feature is the last two overs of the one-day international between Australia and the West Indies where Bevan stole the show. I can remember watching this one in the lounge room and the second viewing on this DVD brought back all the memories. It’s a great idea to include the last two overs from this match as well as from the Australia/West Indies closest test ever. Gripping viewing, even if we already know the results.

Cricket - The Vintage Performances
Cricket fans rejoice!! This is arguably the best cricket DVD out there at the moment, with the promise of even more to come in the next two instalments. Look out for The Modern Masters and The Streak early in 2002, which will hopefully combine to make a brilliant cricket box set. No details have been ignored in each event and the visuals cannot be faulted considering the age of some of the material. The extra features are nothing out of the ordinary but add a lot more to the already lengthy running time without straying into the ‘boring’ category. Know someone who just loves cricket? Well, buy them this disc. Better still, buy it for yourself!