World Test Championship Final Arrangements

Today has seen confirmation that the final of the World Test Championship will take place at The Ageas Bowl, and this is my response to that news.

Today saw confirmation that the first final of the World Test Championship, between India and New Zealand will take place at the Ageas Bowl, near Southampton. The match is scheduled for 18-22 June. The question had been whether it could be staged at Lord’s or not.

THE PROS AND CONS

From a purely cricketing point of view the Ageas Bowl is a superior venue to Lord’s – it will produce a good pitch on which cricketer’s of all types will be able to get into the game, whereas it would only take one overcast day at Lord’s for the match to settled in favour of whoever was bowling at the time, and spinners would find little assistance at any stage of proceedings.

Of course, from a historical and emotional point of view Lord’s, the home of cricket, would have been far superior to the Ageas Bowl.

However, heretical as it will seem to many devoted cricket followers, I would never have had Lord’s in the equation, for all its history and status as a ground – had I been going for a London venue, for which I can see the logic, I would have preferred The Oval, a ground with a grand history in it’s own right, and far more likely to provide a really good match than Lord’s.

As it is, I expect a cracking game between these two sides.

WHY THE AGEAS BOWL?

The Ageas Bowl is one of two grounds in England, the other being Old Trafford, to have hotel built into it, meaning that if the health situation warrants it can easily be turned into a bio-secure bubble, as it was last summer. For all the Prime Minister’s optimism regarding the health situation and his so called ‘road map out of lockdown’, Chris Whitty has been sounding a much more cautious note, and I for one trust him more than I do Johnson. So it seems do the cricketing powers that be who came to this decision.

GETTING THERE

To put it mildly my expectation is that ordinary spectators will not have to worry about getting there in any case, although it is possible that they will be allowed. The Ageas bowl has a reputation for not being accessible, and there is some justice in that. I did a bit of research based on a hypothetical journey from my home in North Lynn to the Ageas bowl and it went as follows:

  • Use of google maps revealed that the nearest train station to the ground is Southampton Airport Parkway.
  • If one can be at that station by 9:27AM there is a bus that runs to the ground and would arrive at 9:45AM. Otherwise, one either has a seriously long walk (over an hour, and not terribly pleasant either by the look of it), or one has to fork out for a taxi on top of other expenses (this is a station serving an airport, so taxis will be available, but doubtless at a premium price).
  • To arrive at Southampton Airport Parkway at 9:27 I would have to be on the 5:39 train out of Lynn, which means leaving my bungalow by 5:15 at the latest, I would then have to change at King’s Cross to the Victoria line, board a mainline train at Victoria and change at Clapham Junction to the train that calls at Southampton Airport Parkway. If and only if all of these connections worked as they are supposed to I would arrive at Southampton Airport Parkway at 9:13, giving me 14 minutes to be aboard the bus. With four stages at which things could go wrong this hypothetical journey would be a colossal (and doubtless expensive) gamble.

NB it is notoriously difficult to get from Southampton town centre itself to the ground, so at least to that extent my methodology, anchoring to Southampton Airport Parkway, is sound.

HOW THE MATCH SHOULD BE APPROACHED

This is a one-off match, with no ‘rest of the series’ or ‘league table position’ to be thought about, so both sides should look askance at the very idea of a draw and should be eager to force a definite result. I would personally favour allowing extra days, or even making this officially the 100th timeless test ever to be played, and the first such since WWII, in order that we do have a definite winner. In the Centenary Test Match of 1977 Mike Brearley ordered his side to keep going for an unlikely final innings target of 463, even though a defeat was the likely outcome of so doing, and stuck to that intent even going into the final session with 110 needed and only five wickets standing. England ultimately lost by 45 runs, the same result and margin as the inaugural test match 100 years earlier, but Brearley was right to scorn the draw in a one-off match. Brearley talks about the match in “The Art of Captaincy”, while Greg Chappell (Aussie skipper in the match in question) covers it in some detail in “The 100th Summer”.

PHOTOGRAPHS

Time for my usual sign off…

Special Post: Oval and Vauxhall

A piece principally about Ashes moments at the Oval cricket ground, with an introductory mention of the history of the two stations that serve it.

INTRODUCTION

Welcome to the latest post in my series “London Station by Station”. I hope you will enjoy this post and that some of you will be encouraged to share it.

IN THE SHADOW OF THE GAS HOLDERS

I am treating these two stations together because they are at opposite ends of the Oval cricket ground. Oval was one of the original six stations of the City and South London Railway, the world’s first deep-level tube railway, which opened in 1890. Vauxhall only opened as an underground station in 1971, part of the newest section of the Victoria line, but is also a main-line railway station and would have opened in that capacity long before Oval.

Today is the Saturday of the Oval test, by tradition the last of the summer. At the moment things are not looking rosy for England, but more spectacular turnarounds have been achieved (bowled at for 15 in 1st dig and won by 155 runs a day and a half later – Hampshire v Warwickshire 1922, 523-4D in 1st dig and beaten by ten wickets two days later – Warwickshire v Lancashire 1982 to give but two examples). The Oval in it’s long and illustrious history has seen some of test cricket’s greatest moments:

1880: 1st test match on English soil – England won by five wickets, Billy Murdoch of Australia won a sovereign from ‘W G’ by topping his 152 in the first innings by a single run.

1882: the original ‘Ashes’ match – the term came from a joke obituary penned after this game by Reginald Shirley Brooks. Australia won by 7 runs, England needing a mere 85 to secure the victory were mown down by Fred Spofforth for 77.

1886: A triumph for England, with W G Grace running up 170, at the time the highest test score by an England batsman. Immediately before the fall of the first England wicket the scoreboard nicely indicated the difference in approach between Grace and his opening partner William Scotton (Notts): Batsman no 1: 134           Batsman no 2: 34

1902: Jessop’s Match – England needing 263 in the final innings were 48-5 and in the last-chance saloon with the tables being mopped when Jessop arrived at the crease. He scored 104 in 77 minutes, and so inspired the remainder of the English batsmen, that with those two cool Yorkshiremen, Hirst and Rhodes together at the death England sneaked home by one wicket.

1926: England’s first post World ward I Ashes win, secured by the batting of Sutcliffe (161) and Hobbs (100) and the bowling of young firebrand Larwood and old sage Rhodes – yes the very same Rhodes who was there at the death 24 years earlier.

1938: The biggest margin of victory in test history – England win by an innings and 579. Australia batted without opener Jack Fingleton and even more crucially no 3 Don Bradman in either innings (it was only confirmation that the latter would not be batting that induced England skipper Hammond to declare at 903-7)

1948: Donald Bradman’s farewell to test cricket – a single boundary would have guaranteed him a three figure batting average, but he failed to pick Eric Hollies’ googly, collecting a second-ball duck and finishing wit a final average of 99.94 – still almost 40 runs an innings better than the next best.

1953: England reclaim the Ashes they lost in 1934 with Denis Compton making the winning hit.

1968: A South-African born batsman scores a crucial 158, and then when it looks like England might be baulked by the weather secures a crucial breakthrough with the ball, exposing the Australian tail to the combination of Derek Underwood and a rain affected pitch. This as not sufficient to earn Basil D’Oliveira an immediate place on that winter’s tour of his native land, and the subsequent behaviour of the South African government when he is named as a replacement for Tom Cartwright (offically injured, unoffically unwilling to tour South Africa) sets off a chain of events that will leave South Africa in the sporting wilderness for almost quarter of a century.

1975: Australia 532-9D, England 191 – England in the mire … but a fighting effort all the way down the line in the second innings, Bob Woolmer leading the way with 149 sees England make 538 in the second innings and Australia have to settle for the draw (enough for them to win the series 1-0).

1985: England need only a draw to retain the Ashes, and a second-wicket stand of 351 between Graham Gooch (196) and David Gower (157) gives them a position of dominance they never relinquish, although a collapse, so typical of England in the 1980s and 90s sees that high-water mark of 371-1 turn into 464 all out. Australia’s final surrender is tame indeed, all out for 241 and 129 to lose by an innings and 94, with only Greg Ritchie’s 1st innings 64 worthy of any credit.

2005: For the second time in Oval history an innings of 158 by a South-African born batsman will be crucial to the outcome of the match, and unlike in 1968, the series. This innings would see Kevin Peter Pietersen, considered by many at the start of this match as there for a good time rather than a long time, finish the series as its leading run scorer.

2009: A brilliant combined bowling effort from Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann sees Australia all out for 160 after being 72-0 in their first innings, a debut century from Jonathan Trott knocks a few more nails into the coffin, and four more wickets for Swann in the second innings, backed by the other bowlers and by Andrew Flintoff’s last great moment in test cricket – the unassisted run out of Ricky Ponting (not accompanied by the verbal fireworks of Trent Bridge 2005 on this occasion!).

The above was all written without consulting books, but for those who wish to know more about test cricket at this iconic venue, there is a book dedicated to that subject by David Mortimer.

As usual I conclude this post with some map pics…

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