Category Archives: The Oval

August Cricket Week

Hampshire versus Kent, 26th-29th August 1978, Bournemouth. Surrey versus Hampshire 18-21st 2019  August,  The Oval.

When John Arlott retired in 1980 he wrote of his abiding nostalgia for the county cricket circuit which had anchored much of his career, cricketers as members of a travelling circus going round the country in the summer months, the game’s greats on board.  Something from another world now,  but in the summer of 1978 it was a strong  Kent team, that included ‘Deadly’ Derek Underwood, that came for the second half of the Bournemouth week. On the point of becoming County Champions they bumped into Gordon  Greenidge  going through a great purple patch:  five centuries and a fifty (in the SL game below) in seven innings; two of them enabling the home side  to win with relative ease, (umpires) Cowley and Jesty at the crease.

 

The photo of Trevor Jesty  from behind looks a bit odd now, although given a camera at just one end  with TV coverage  at the time, not especially then.  In another media age, Radio 2 did hourly sports desks in the afternoon which fed the game’s chatter, with the  second reading of the cricket scoreboard at 7.30; a holy of sorts for some, it was often delivered with a certain gravitas if memory serves.

As for those doing the chatter  players then perambulated around grounds and talked to members and spectators. This blog takes its name from those who watched  from one end of Dean Park in those years: prominent the then chair of CAMRA, real ale and communism,  ‘W.G.’, who having trialled the world of work for a fortnight in the 1950s had  decided against continuing with it, those too young to have made that decision; those that weren’t and hadn’t and one who remembered matches from the 1930s. Easy days spent watching cricket: part sanctuary, part speakers’ corner, and a comment on those with the patience to follow  the  game and the tolerances of each other that watching fostered.

The  Oval in 2019 is  a decent place to take in the pleasures of a Monday morning at the cricket, hearth  from its history and strangely, or maybe not all, the Vauxhall End has its ‘sightscreen committee’, independent-minded  comments and recollections as standard. Perhaps there is a parallel universe somewhere with many sightscreen committees, the game there might be the better for it , but in this one it should be mentioned the ‘People’s Home’ also benefits from its flag-bearers for the county game in the Peter May stand.

 

The course of the Surrey-Hants fixture  was reset  by a big innings of considerable maturity from Ollie Pope, enough to generate interest on the last afternoon despite the fact that, in the end, only 22 wickets fell over four days. The 12 men of Hants (one concussion sub) resisting the 13 of Surrey (two England call-ups) with an innings of promise from Felix Organ  leading their rearguard. As the game reached its conclusion Ben Foakes again showed the lightening speed of his reactions (and anticipation) and credit, of course, to those who field at short-leg

When the game was expanding in the direction of more limited-overs cricket  in decades past there were mature types then who, understandably, did not give thanks for having their memories, understanding, of the game disrupted.  Sentiments that get passed across the generations maybe; but had England had won the World Cup in 1979 no-one then would have been bonkers enough to promptly  downgrade the Gillette Cup, and  when England did win the Ashes in 1981, the County Championship was respected in  ways that it just isn’t now.  Much  centralisation of decision-making  since has left the game’s governing body appearing as confused as it is self-interested.

 

 

 

 

 

Oval Summer 2018

While the Surrey team taking to the field in the opening fixture against Hants (above) look generally together, there were not that many signs of the season that was to come. In early summer form there is of course little or none for anyone and the Oval wicket in particular had its reputation for doing draws.

The fourth game and  Sam Curran taking a 10-for against Yorkshire gave their season momentum, an innings win to be followed by those against Hants, Somerset and, in July, Notts. From the spectating end of things the Championship was by then on hold rather, but June did mark a visit from teams of Aboriginal cricketers a 150 years after the 1858 tour,  and at the end of July there was an entertaining KSL match between the Surrey Stars and Lancashire Thunder;  t20 cricket at the Oval with a Championship-type ambience and a competition that deserves a more settled future than it currently seems to have.

The first tied match in the history of the Championship was the Surrey v Lancashire fixture of 1894. This year might easily have been another one, a really well contested match (Surrey 211 and 306, Lancashire 247 and 264),  and, at the end, with six the difference, Matt Parkinson fended at a delivery from Morne Morkel and was instinctively, brilliantly, caught at short-leg by Will Jacks.

It was a gripping final afternoon and a crucial, if not decisive, moment in the season: what turned out to be the penultimate ball from the other end was a swing from Tom Bailey that did not connect with a very short leg-side boundary; and had the result gone the other way it might have unsettled Surrey’s campaign, de-railed it even. By the end of the Notts game the following week (below) the body language of the players suggested another story, and Somerset then did tie their fixture with Lancashire; the 24th in the competition’s history.

Early September brought the final Test with India, much attention with and appreciation for the career of Alistair Cook. There was also an interesting final day when for a time the Indians  were on course to emulate their 1979 predecessors; the year of Sunil Gavaskar’s  double century, when they drew a match at the ground scoring 400+ in the 4th innings. At the end of this one there were markers of Sam Curran’s progress as he set up Jimmy for the final delivery of the series.

Surrey were no question very  worthy county champions in 2018 and there was an excellent finale with the champions of 2017; the heightened senses of don’t miss a ball cricket on the final afternoon for a second time, nearly but not quite a record comeback, nearly the 25th tie.

To be sure they have  a financial advantage over other counties, part of which is returned to those who come to watch: £142 for the Championship and List A season, 12 guest tickets included, £5 for a KSL match and in the way cricket does bargains £20 for the 5th day of the Test. Reasonable sums in any year, although the cricket in 2018 exceeded reasonable expectations by a distance. It also funds high-end signings, Morne Morkel this year; with a career of more than 80 Tests behind him it was very evident just much he cared about playing county cricket this summer, which for those spectating was a very good thing to see and a message to others.

Surrey versus Middlesex 4th Day

Surrey versus Middlesex  31st August 2017

It having been a good week for red ball cricket, to the Oval to see the final afternoon of the London derby. A Middlesex rear guard action and a game heading for a  draw after tea, when the players  suddenly and unexpectedly left the field. No announcement was forthcoming although after a  few moments some sort of security alert seemed very probable.

Time and other things are suspended rather in these situations, two security staff walked round the boundary edge on the Harleyford Road side of the ground, up the steps, passing by this spectator, being good enough to indicate an arrow being carried by one of them, onwards in the direction of the hospitality custom above, where (presumably) they thought they might find a bow. I gather they didn’t.

Meanwhile members in the pavilion looked around at each other awaiting communication as did other spectators; after a period of 10-15 minutes, perhaps more than that, a plainly nervous gentleman on the PA apologised for the delay in making an announcement, but would spectators please take cover now, which being sensible people they did. The BBC commentary team spoke of lockdown  although this spectator and others simply headed out of the ground and down the road to Vauxhall Station.

From a distance of about two feet the arrow certainly looked like it would have done a serious damage to someone had it struck them; luckily as well as happily this day it didn’t.

The individual response by the security staff was good; as for their managerial co-ordination there was a rather long delay in telling spectators to take action and before the episode  is passed into the filing cabinet, mental and otherwise, what could be done to shorten it on any future such occasion should be somewhere near the top of the list of priorities.

 

 

 

The Oval

Surrey versus Hampshire  July 16 1978, July 3-6, 2017

To the Oval, about to celebrate staging its 100th test but also a place  where the question posed by CLR James in Beyond a Boundary…what do they know of cricket who only cricket know?…still resonates. The book, published in 1963, came after the appointment of Frank Worrell as West Indian captain and the decades that followed were to become a time of Caribbean dominance in cricket; the  Oval, particularly in the 1970s, a place  where the West Indian team and their supporters  made a statement against a background of prejudice and lives being difficult.

Gordon Greenidge and Barry Richards batting for Hampshire for a final time in  a Sunday League match. Intikab fielding.

West Indian cricketers were also prominent in the domestic English game, Hampshire very much included, although by comparison with the tests, county matches were relatively calm occasions; four days for county cricket then  meant a Championship game  played on a Saturday, Monday and Tuesday, together with a 40-over Sunday League  match. When  Hampshire went to the Oval in July 1978 the Sunday saw Gordon Greenidge and Barry Richards open a Hampshire innings  for the final time in a Sunday League match, putting on 97; with the help of some late hitting by Andy Roberts the innings totalled 238-7 at a time when 240 was a ‘good score’ in 60 over cricket and heading over the horizon in the 40 over format.

John Edrich the non-striker, umpire Tom Spencer. Benches for spectators.

Surrey however, with a team that had John Edrich, Younis and Intikab chased down the runs with a ball to spare, despite economical overs of medium pace bowling by John Rice and Tim Tremlett.  A defeat for Hampshire to get over and also the last  weekend in which Andy Roberts played for the county; although in a message about winning competitions they went on to lift the Sunday League trophy that September, winning four of their five remaining games played, in  large part thanks to Gordon Greenidge who made two centuries, and also perhaps to a  changed dressing room.

The Bedser Stand to the right of the pavilion, a redevelopment is planned after the 2019 World Cup.

In the years since the Oval has been largely rebuilt, albeit that it retains much the same ambience for watching the game. Gas holder number 1 is now seen as iconic and has been granted grade II listed building status.

Cricket, of course, no longer holds the place in West Indian culture that once it did; the Oval in  2017, home to Surrey cricket and to much corporate hospitality and event management, a reflection of the prosperity of London in an era in which, broadly, those born in the decades after WWII, those at the top, have done particularly well. The capacity of the ground is planned to rise to 40,000 in time for the 2023 Ashes test;  an expression of confidence in the future, although if the current era beyond the boundary is now drawing to a close, the effect on English cricket, the Oval, is really anyone’s guess.

George Bailey and Jimmy Adams making runs in the sunshine.
Dominic Sibley lbw Kyle Abbott, Hants confer.
Some lively spells from Fidel Edwards.
Hampshire’s future promise, Mason Crane and Lewis McManus.

In the 2017 fixture it was Surrey, with their home in the global city, that took to the field with ten England qualified players and Hampshire who were the team of internationalists: four England qualified players, three South Africans, two Australians, one Zimbabwean  and one West Indian. The first two days were dominated by Hampshire who posted their 5th highest ever score,  648-7, with centuries from Jimmy Adams, James Vince and George Bailey; but they were also then  left with the difficult task  of bowling out an opponent twice on the same pitch. Rory Burns led Surrey’s response from the front, but Hampshire  stuck at it with Fidel Edwards, now just one of four West Indians on the county circuit, bowling quickly on the third evening and handy support given  by Ian Holland who took five wickets on the final day; although, in truth, the Oval was rather becalmed on the fourth afternoon. A draw on a draw wicket.

From the Oval, the pleasures of a county match in an empty cathedral; in a nice touch on the first day there was  a presentation made to Surrey members who had passed their personal half-centuries of membership; if other counties don’t do something similar in a better world they would. Hampshire stronger than they were a year ago and they should be playing Division 1 again next year; if they were to win four of their remaining five matches this year they could still be on to something.