LONDON: “In a low scoring, dramatic match England lost to Australia by seven runs despite dismissing them for just 63 in the first innings and 122 in the second...The loss resulted in an obituary to English cricket being published...stating that English cricket had died and the body would be cremated with the ashes taken to Australia. From this one the keenest rivalries in sport was given its name.”
Reference of this Test held at The Oval in 1882 is just one of the many pieces of history strewn around the ground which hosted the first ever Test on English soil in 1880, other than England’s first international football match, against Scotland in 1870.
Len Hutton’s 364 against Australia in 1938 and England’s innings and 579-run win (biggest victory in Test history) in the same Test, Don Bradman’s farewell duck in 1948 --- many of cricket’s seminal moments were witnessed at this venue dating back to the first quarter of the 18th century.
So much that it’s difficult not to get overwhelmed by the sense of history if you are a newcomer to this place.
Now, legacy means little if not preserved. This takes some amount of thought and conscious effort. A trip to The Oval makes it clear that authorities here treat this with all seriousness. Home to the Surrey County Cricket Club since its inception in 1845, the grand old venue bears ample testimony to that.
All 14 gates of the ground are named after Surrey stalwarts. From John Edrich to Alec Stewart, many generations are represented. There are stands named after Peter May, Jim Laker and Tony Lock.
Surrey has won the County Championship 20 times and photographs of all those teams from 1864 to 2018 are displayed on the walls made of red brick. There are pillars with photographs and career stats of all the Surrey players who played for England.
“The management out here takes a lot of care in the preservation of legacy and history of this ground.
"From time to time they come up with ideas and make sure that every bit of that is visible in some form or the other.
It can be a gate, wall, plaque, stand or board. Care is taken to ensure that the rich history of this ground and the club is visible,” said a member of the stadium staff.
People take interest in this and many come for the guided tour of the ground which costs 15 pounds. This is no mean amount and that the public is willing to spend that much shows the level of interest.