Five great Oval Tests


Thursday will see The Oval become just the fourth ground to stage its 100th cricket Test when England face South Africa in the third of a four-match series.

The south London headquarters of county side Surrey has witnessed many memorable matches in the 137 years since it staged the first Test in England in 1880 and below AFP Sport selects five of the best from The Oval’s rich history:

1882: Birth of the Ashes

One of the oldest trophies in world sport was born at The Oval when England’s shock defeat by Australia led to a mock obituary in the Sporting Times newspaper that said English cricket had died and that “the body will be cremated and the ashes taken to Australia”.

When England next toured Australia, their captain, Ivo Bligh, was presented with an urn said to contain the ashes of a bail — and hence the name for all future Anglo-Australian Test series.

1938: Hutton the record-breaker

England great Leonard Hutton was just 22 years old when he set a new world record for the highest individual Test score by making 364 against Australia in an innings and 579-run thrashing of their arch-rivals — still the largest margin of victory in any Test match.

Hutton’s total, in an innings lasting more than 13 hours, surpassed fellow England batsman Walter Hammond’s 336 not out against New Zealand at Auckland as the highest individual score then made in Test cricket.

1948: The Don bows out with a duck

The most famous nought in history saw Australia’s Donald Bradman, arguably the greatest batsman the game has known, walk out for his final Test innings before retirement needing a mere four runs for a Test average of 100. Instead he was bowled by England leg-spinner Eric Hollies for nought, but his Test average of 99.94 remains way ahead of any other batsman.

Bradman didn’t get a second chance to bat in a match Australia won by an innings and 149 runs after skittling out England for just 52 in the hosts’ first knock.

1976: Richards and Holding triumphant

Prior to the 1976 series against the West Indies, then England captain Tony Greig said he intended to make his opponents “grovel”. It was an unfortunate choice of word, all the more so coming from a white man born and brought up in apartheid South Africa.

The West Indies were angered by Greig’s comments and at The Oval star batsman Vivian Richards, with a masterful 291, and fast bowler Michael Holding, who had match figures of 16 for 149 on a placid pitch, produced two of their best individual displays in a 231-run win that saw their side to a 3-0 series victory.

2005: Pietersen secures the Ashes

One of the most thrilling Test series of all time was still in the balance come the final day.

But Kevin Pietersen’s stunning 158 — his maiden Test century — against an attack boasting all-time greats Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne — saw England to a draw that secured a first Ashes series win in 19 years.

Pietersen’s score was exactly the same as made by another South Africa-born batsman, Basil D’Oliveira, for England against Australia in an Ashes Test at The Oval in 1968.