The Oval was the first ground in England to host Test cricket. 134 years have passed since the September 6, 1880 when the ground made its Test debut.
England have hosted 96 matches at this venue, winning 39 and losing 20. By tradition, The Oval hosts the last Test of the English summer, though there have been some exceptions.
We look at the top five batting, bowling and all-round performances at The Oval.
NOTE: A series-defining performance (SD) – marked with an asterisk – shores up the value of that performance considerably. All Impact numbers mentioned are in a match context, but in a career context, all these match numbers are capped to 5.
It is interesting to note that all the highest impact batting performances at The Oval were before the modern era (ie, before 1975).
1) Arthur Morris: 196 v England, 1948. Batting Impact: 11.24
Australia, under Don Bradman, had taken an unassailable 3-0 lead coming into the final Test at The Oval. Ray Lindwall picked up 6 for 20 and cleaned up the hosts for a paltry 52.
Australia posted 389, 196 of which were owned by the Arthur Morris, the left-hand opener (Runs Tally Impact of 10.26 which is exceptional, meaning he scored the runs equivalent to more than ten batsmen). The next highest score in the innings was 61 by Barnes. Morris also had a high Partnership Building Impact.
England were bowled out for 188 in the second innings as Australia triumphed by an innings and 149 runs, taking the series 4-0.
This Australian team were later given the tag of the Invincibles as they were the first touring Test side not to lose a single match in England.
It was also the last Test match for Don Bradman and needed just four to take his career average past the magical 100 mark. Eric Hollies, the legspinner, cleaned him up for a duck and Bradman was left stranded at 99.94. And guess who was at the other end as The Don departed – Arthur Morris.
2) * Len Hutton: 364 v Australia, 1938. Batting Impact: 10.86
Len Hutton’s colossal series-defining 364 (exceptionally high Runs Tally Impact) helped England register the biggest ever victory in Test cricket history (by an innings and 579 runs).
Trailing 0-1 coming into the final Test, England amassed 903 in the first innings (the highest Test score at the time and second only to Sri Lanka’s 952 in Test history).
Hutton put together 382 with Maurice Leyland for the second wicket before further being involved in a century and a double century partnership in the innings (high Partnership Building Impact). Australia were cleaned up for 201 and 123 as England levelled the series at 1-1.
His 364 also remained the highest Test score till it was overhauled by Garry Sobers’s 365 some 20 years later.
3) Hugh Massie: 1 and 55 v England, 1882. Batting Impact: 10.81
In a low scoring thriller in 1882, Australia edged England by 7 runs to win the one-off Test. Batting first, the visitors were skittled for a meagre 63. The hosts fared only marginally better and were bundled for 101.
Hugh Massie, the right-hand opening batsman, then came up with a quickfire 55 (off just 60 balls including nine boundaries) to help Australia post 122 in the second innings. Spofforth picked up his second 7-for in the match as England, chasing 85, fell seven runs short.
This was Massie’s only fifty in Test cricket. His performance earned him a batting impact of 10.8, easily the highest impact performance in his Test career. His second-highest impact performance was when he made 71 runs in two innings, with a Match Impact of just 2.3.
4) Tom Graveney: 164 v West Indies, 1957. Batting Impact: 10.01
England had already wrapped up the series with innings wins at Lord’s and in Leeds. Tom Graveney, England’s right-hand No. 3 batsman, put together a 146-run stand for the second wicket with Peter Richardson (high Partnership Building Impact). England posted 412. Graveney’s 164 was approximately 40% of the team’s total (high Runs Tally Impact).
Tony Lock, the slow left-arm orthodox bowler, picked up a fifer and a six-for to skittle West Indies for 89 and 86 respectively, ensuring another victory by an innings for the hosts.
5) Gilbert Jessop: 13 and 104 v Australia, 1902. Batting Impact: 9.96
After a thrilling three-run series-clinching win for Australia at Old Trafford, the Ashes rivalry moved to The Oval for the fifth and final Test. England were bowled out for 183 after conceding 324 in the first innings.
Bill Lockwood’s pace was too much for Australia to handle as the visitors were cleaned up for 121, setting England a target of 263. Gilbert Jessop, theright-arm fast bowling allrounder, came to the crease with England reeling at 48 for 5. He tore into the opposition bowlers and struck a blitzkrieg century, putting together a hundred partnership with Stanley Jackson for the sixth wicket.
His 104 came in just 77 minutes and included 17 hits to the fence (high Runs Tally and Pressure Impact). George Hirst and the lower order clicked and helped England to a nail-biting one-wicket consolation win.
Jessop would certainly have had a high Strike Rate Impact too if data for the number of balls he faced in the match were available, which might have taken him to a higher position in the above list.
1) Muttiah Muralitharan: 7/155 and 9/65 v England, 1998. Bowling Impact: 9.98
Muttiah Muralitharan’s highest impact bowling performance came in the one-off Test in 1998. England amassed 445 in the first innings with tons from Graeme Hick and John Crawley. Muralitharan’s marathon spell of 59.3 overs brought him seven wickets for 155 runs.
Sanath Jayasuriya’s double and Aravinda de Silva’s ton helped Sri Lanka post 591. It was all Muralitharan in England’s second innings as he tormented the opposition batsmen with his spin and craft. England were bundled for 181. Murali’s figures read 54.2-27-65-9. It was remarkable how many top and middle-order wickets he took whilst maintaining a very low economy. Sri Lanka chased down the target of 36 runs with all ten wickets in the kitty.
Murali’s match figures were the fifth best in Test cricket history.
2) * Fazal Mahmood: 6/53 and 6/46 v England, 1954. Bowling Impact: 8.91
England went into the fourth and final Test with a 1-0 lead. Frank Tyson and Peter Loader were too quick for the Pakistan batting line-up which folded for 133. Fazal Mahmood, the right-arm fast medium opening bowler for Pakistan, bettered the performance of his counterparts and picked up 6 for 53 in 30 overs to dislodge England for 130.
Johnny Wardle, the left-arm spinner, took seven-for to help England clean up Pakistan for 164, this setting up a target of 168 for England. Fazal was the destroyer-in-chief again as he ran through the England top and middle order, finishing with 6 for 46 off his 30 overs.
Pakistan won by 24 runs and levelled the series 1-1. It was a series-defining performance by Mahmood – a historic performance as it was Pakistan’s first Test win in England and helped them draw a series in England for the first time.
3) * Michael Holding: 8/92 and 6/57 v England, 1976. Bowling Impact: 8.67
West Indies had wrapped up the series with wins in Manchester and Leeds. The Oval again hosted the last Test of the series. Vivian Richards’s 291 helped West Indies post a mammoth 687 in their first innings. Michael Holding picked up 8 wickets but could not prevent England from putting up 435, courtesy a double ton by Dennis Amiss.
England were set the same total for victory in the second innings and got off to a 49-run opening stand before Holding ripped through the line-up, picking up 6 for 57 off 20.4 overs.
The hosts succumbed to his pace and could muster only 203, losing the Test by 231 runs.
This was the highest impact bowling performance of Holding’s Test career – a series defining performance.
4) Frederick Spofforth: 7/46 and 7/44 v England, 1882. Bowling Impact: 8.67
Frederick Spofforth, the right-arm fast bowler, cleaned up England for 101 after Dick Barlow and Ted Peate had skittled Australia for 63 in the first innings. Spofforth’s figures read 36.3-18-46-7. The visitors managed to better their first-innings total but not by much and were knocked over for 122 in the second innings, setting England a target of 85.
But Spofforth wasn’t done yet. In another astonishing spell of fast bowling, he wreaked havoc on the English batsmen and returned figures of 7 for 44 off 28 overs as the hosts were bowled out for just 77. Only three of Spofforth’s 14 wickets in the match were lower-order batsmen.
5) Fred Martin: 6/50 and 6/52 v Australia, 1890. Bowling Impact: 7.70
The Ashes moved to The Oval for the second Test after England had comfortably won the opener at Lord’s by 7 wickets. Fred Martin, the left-arm fast medium bowler on debut, opened the bowling for England.
He tormented the visitors and blew Australia apart for 92 with 6 for 50 off 27 overs. The hosts bettered that score by just eight runs in their first innings. Martin once again was in the limelight and took his match tally to 12 wickets (the best figures by a debutant until Bob Massie destroyed England with 16 for 137 in 1972) with a stellar 6 for 52 off 30.2 overs as Australia were bowled out for 102. England made heavy weather of the chase but finally prevailed by two wickets to make the series 2-0, which was to prove the eventual scoreline too. Martin just played two Tests for England.
1) George Hirst: 43, 58 not out & 5/77, 1/7 v Australia, 1902. Overall Impact: 11.73
George Hirst came up with a brilliant all-round performance in the same dead rubber as Gilbert Jessop. Hirst, a left-arm medium pacer, had reduced Australia to 126 for 5 (picking up all the five – High Pressure Building Impact) before a late-order recovery help the visitors post 324.
England were in trouble at 83 for 6 in the first innings when Hirst, a right-hand batsman, walked in and scored a run-a-minute 43 (highest score in the innings) to help the hosts post a respectable 183. Australia were bowled out for 121 in the second innings setting England 263 for victory. The home team were in trouble at 157 for 6 when Hirst walked in to join Jessop. He remained unbeaten on 58 (second highest score of the innings – High Pressure Impact and Not Out/Crunch Impact), combining with the tail to take England to an exciting one-wicket win.
2) * Chris Cairns: 11, 80 & 5/31, 1/50 v England, 1999. Overall Impact: 11.38
Chris Cairns’s series-defining all-round performance takes us back to the fourth and final Test at The Oval in 1999. The series was level at 1-1. New Zealand posted 236 in the first innings. Cairns broke the back of the English batting, picking up 5 for 31 off his 19 overs (Economy and Top/Middle Order Wicket Impact) as the hosts were dismissed for 153.
The Kiwis were in dire straits at 39 for 6 in the second innings when Cairns walked in and smashed a breathtaking 80 off just 93 deliveries including 8 fours and 4 sixes (Pressure and Strike Rate Impact) to take them to 162.
He fittingly ended the match with the wicket of Alan Mullally as New Zealand won by 83 runs and with it took the series — only their second such success in England.
3) Billy Barnes: 2/18, 5/32 & 62 v Australia, 1888. Overall Impact: 10.79
Australia had won the first Ashes Test at Lord’s. Electing to bat in the second, they folded for a paltry 80. Billy Barnes, the right-arm fast medium bowler, played a supporting role and picked up 2 wickets conceding just 18 runs off his 16 overs.
He then came out to bat at 53 for 4 and with a fine 62 (high Pressure Impact) helped England post 317. But his best was yet to come. He produced a match-winning 5 for 32 off 29 overs to clean up Australia for 100, giving England an innings and 137-run win. They went on to win the three-match series with another innings win in Manchester.
4) Hugh Trumble: 64 not out, 7 not out & 8/65, 4/108 v England, 1902. Overall Impact: 9.98
This match features for the third time in the article. Trumble, the offspinner, came out to bat at No. 7 with the score at 175 and scored an unbeaten 64 (the highest score of the innings – high Pressure Impact), helping Australia to 324. He then bamboozled the English with his offspin and shot them out for 183 with 8 for 65 off 31 overs, including 13 maidens.
His exploits with the ball in the second innings almost gave Australia their third successive win of the series but for the efforts of Jessop and Hirst (already described in detail in this piece) which gave England a one-wicket win.
5) Richard Hadlee: 6/53, 2/99 & 84, 11 v England, 1983. Overall Impact: 8.48
The Oval hosted the first Test of the series in 1983. England, batting first, were restricted to 209 in the first innings. Richard Hadlee, spearheading the New Zealand attack, picked up 6 for 53 off 23.4 overs. Ian Botham and Bob Willis reduced New Zealand to 41 for 5 before Hadlee came up with a brilliant counter-attacking 84 off just 78 balls (high Pressure Impact) to take the visitors to 196. England amassed 446 in the second innings and New Zealand fell well short of the chase, going down by 189 runs.
(Nikhil Narain, Soham Sarkhel)