Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Surrey 286/4 vs Middlesex - Day 1 - LV= County Cricket Division 2 at The Oval - May 17, 2010

I've pretty much completed my sightseeing in London, so had a bit of time Monday morning to visit The Oval, another historic cricket ground that lies just south of the Thames. It was Day 1 of a county cricket match between Middlesex and Surrey. The coolest thing about seeing Day 1 is that when Day 4 is being played, I'll be in Phoenix!

The Oval

The Oval was built in 1845 to provide a ground for the newly formed Surrey County Cricket Club. In the intervening years it saw many historical events, including the first ever international soccer match in 1870 and the first test in England in 1880. The clock below commemorates the 150th anniversary of the ground.

The closest tube stop is appropriately named Oval station on the Northern Line. But it's also walkable from Vauxhall or even from the north side of the Thames near Tate Britain. Tickets for county cricket matches are just 1o quid at the turnstiles. The capacity is around 25,000 and for the match yesterday there were maybe 500 spectators, so not much of a worry on getting a seat. When you enter you will notice the entire venue is enclosed by a brick wall that looks to be original from 165 years ago. Between the wall and the seating area is effectively the concourse and you can walk around the entire place, stopping in to check the view here or there.

The pavilion (above, taken from the middle of the field) is for members only but right next to it is the Laker Stand which provides a good view to the corner of the pitch. A couple of more blocks to the right will take you to the Peter May stand, which looks at the pitch straight from the side.

...or he may sit

Across the way from the pavilion is the recently-built OCS stand (below). It was mostly closed for this session but has some higher seats which should provide a different view. I found that the upper level of the Laker Stand was the best place to sit as it was in the sun (when it was out) and gave a good perspective on the bowling.

Perhaps the most distinct feature of the ground is actually outside it. To the west of the stadium lies an old gasometer, or gas holder. It has become world famous as The Oval is one of the grounds used in international Test matches and the gasometer is visible from many television angles. That's it below; you may notice the word "Brit" painted on the seats. This refers to the ground's sponsor Brit Insurance (the official name is now the Brit Insurance Oval). It's not nearly as nice as seeing the team name in the seats as you do in the local football stadiums.

There were a couple of food carts including one that sells seafood which surprised me. There's also an enclosed restaurant with a view of the field that is open from noon till 5, but again seafood. There we no pies so I didn't partake.

One warning: outside the ground there are signs saying "No Admittance with Alcohol or Music Instruments" so leave your tuba at home.

Overall, the recent developments here along with the copious amount of advertising made this less impressive than Lords. Still, it is one of the oldest facilities in use in the world and located close to central London, so check if there's a match on when your visiting and stop by if you can.

The Match

I saw Middlesex last week at Lord's so knew a bit about them. Their victory over Derbyshire moved them to 5th in the 9-team table. Surrey, however, was lying bottom with just a draw in 4 matches. Their star is Mark Ramprakash (below), an ex-Middlesex player who has spent 23 productive seasons in county cricket as well as some time with England in the 1990s.

Surrey won the toss and elected to bat as the wicket was quite flat.This implies that the bowlers will struggle to fool the batters and a high score should result. But that was not the case in the morning session as the Surrey batsmen spent most of the time protecting the wicket. In other words, they were just batting the ball weakly and not running. In the 8th over, youngster Laurie Evans (below) was bowled for just 10 runs, but he was replaced by Ramprakash who joined Arun Harinath in an 89-run partnership that lasted until well after lunch, including a short rain delay. But it was slow going that saw few boundaries. It was rather dull cricket but proper strategy as Surrey were not taking any risks early in the match.

After Harinath (below) was caught out I stayed for a while to see Ramprakash make his 50 before I headed home. It was getting cold as the sun had disappeared and I didn't expect much to happen in the last few hours. Turns out that Ramprakash managed 125 runs on the day, and Surrey ended up with a promising 286/4 with all 96 overs being played.

I saw about half of those overs but just 110 runs - as the day progressed Surrey changed their strategy as the heavy hitters started swinging harder. The danger for Surrey is taking too much time at bat and then not being able to bowl Middlesex out twice. I'd say that the first sessions of a Test are probably the least interesting, but you never know what might happen. I'm glad I went but it was more entertaining last week watching Middlesex chase a low total.


There was a fox that repeatedly entered the field and disrupted play. It was quite amusing to watch the players chase it around until it jumped over the fence, only to appear again a few minutes later. With that and the rain, I was surprised they made all 96 overs by the end of play.

During lunch spectators are allowed onto the field. It's always an interesting experience being on a professional sporting ground, but this one has so much history it was easy to imagine the cricketers from a 100 years ago playing exactly the same game. That's the pitch below with the stumps clearly visible.

The shop had a sale on cricket jerseys from last season so I picked one up for £5. So now I guess I'll have to root for Surrey. Given that they are in last place, it's not something that will take much getting used to after 35 years as a Toronto Maple Leafs fan.

Day two has just finished and Surrey were all out for 490 with Ramprakash notching 223 runs for a double century. Middlesex have responded for 148 without losing a wicket, so it looks like a draw is likely at this point. In the first two days, only 10 wickets have been taken, which means that 30 wickets would be necessary in the next two days. I'll post the final result here so check back on Thursday.

From a road trip perspective, Test cricket might be the worst sport to watch. It takes all day, which is when you should be doing some sightseeing. Still, I'd like at one point to watch an entire test just for the experience. So I hope to be back again in better weather.

Next Up

Tomorrow I'm flying to LA and driving to Phoenix. I'll arrive too late for the Diamondbacks-Giants game but Thursday should see Tim Lincecum pitching for San Francisco, so I'll be there to watch that. Then the streaking Jays are in town for the weekend. Sharpy is joining me so it should be a good time. Talk to you then!



1 comment:

  1. As always, excellent stories.

    You crack me up... Peter may sit, Toronto Maple Leafs reference.

    Safe flight to the states!