Oval offers ultimate Ashes climax
The Oval, where Tests in England and the Ashes began, is a fitting venue for the climax of another compelling England versus Australia Test series.
Andrew Strauss and Ricky Ponting’s teams go head-to-head in Kennington, South London, at the most historic venue in English cricket.
Whisper it quietly, particularly to MCC members, but it was the Oval that hosted the first Test in England - the fourth worldwide - four years before the Home of Cricket staged a Test.
England beat Australia by five wickets on the third day of three - September 8 1880 - on the back of 152 from debutant WG Grace in the first innings.
However, the Ashes were not at stake. The legend began after England’s next clash with Australia at the Oval, in August 1882.
Chasing 85 to win, the hosts slumped from 51 for two to 78 all out as seamer Frederick Spofforth claimed 14 wickets in the match. Next day The Sporting Times published the famous mock obituary of English cricket.
The traditional venue for the last Test of the English summer has hosted numerous epic Ashes battles since.
In 1902 England pulled off a remarkable one-run triumph as Gilbert Jessop’s hundred helped overcome a 141-run first innings deficit, albeit in the last match of a series Australia won 2-1.
Fast-forward to 1930 when Sir Donald Bradman amassed 232 as Australia replied to England’s 405 with 695, going on to win the timeless Test by an innings and 39 runs over six days.
The tourists’ first win at the Oval since 1882 sealed a 2-1 triumph and ended England’s unbeaten run in 13 Ashes contests there.
Bradman was at it again four years later thanks to 244 out of a partnership of 451 with Bill Ponsford, who struck 266 in Australia’s 701. They won by 562 runs, clinching the series 2-1.
Sir Len Hutton’s then Test and remaining England record 364 set up a mammoth 903 for seven declared in 1938 and victory by an innings and 579 runs, salvaging a 1-1 draw although Australia retained the urn.
World War Two meant the Ashes did not return to the Oval for a decade but 1948 will forever be remembered for Bradman’s first ball nought in his last Test innings.
Needing just four to finish his career with a Test average of 100, he was bowled by leg-spinner Eric Hollies. For the record, Australia won by an innings and 149 runs and 4-0.
In 1953 Denis Compton hit the boundary off Arthur Morris that won England the Ashes, 1-0, for the first time since 1926 - pre-Bradman.
The Oval twice hosted three consecutive drawn Ashes Tests in 1956, 1961 and 1964 and again in 1975, 1977 and 1981 - the last after Ian Botham had aided England’s 3-1 victory.
Between these sequences of stalemate both rivals won a Test, with England’s 1968 triumph memorable for last-day drama despite Australia having retained the Ashes.
Chasing 352, the tourists slumped to 85 for five when a freak storm left the ground under water. However, after spectators had helped dry out the playing area with 75 minutes remaining, left-arm spinner Derek Underwood completed a seven-wicket haul, a 226-run win and a 1-1 draw.
In 1972, the Chappell brothers - Ian and Greg - each hit hundreds in a double century first-innings alliance which helped square the series and retain the urn.
England’s innings and 94-run victory in 1985, which completed a 3-1 success, will be remembered a 351-run partnership between Graham Gooch and captain David Gower - who scored 196 and 157 respectively.
The 1989 Test was drawn, leaving Australia 4-0 victors, while England salvaged some pride in 1993 with a 161-run thrashing to go down 4-1.
1997 was a similar story for the hosts, left-arm spinner Phil Tufnell’s 11 wickets leaving the scoreline only 3-2 in arrears.
Australia captain Steve Waugh overcame a torn calf in 2001, hobbling to 157 not out to set up victory by an innings and 25 runs and a 4-1 series margin.
2005 needs no retelling. Can England once again get the result they need to reclaim the Ashes?
England-Australia Oval records
England wins: 15
Australia wins: 6
England - Highest total: 903; Lowest total: 52
Australia - Highest total: 701; Lowest total: 44
1880: England won by five wickets
1882: Australia won by seven runs
1886: England won by an innings and 217 runs
1888: England won by an innings and 137 runs
1890: England won by two wickets
1893: England won by an innings and 43 runs
1896: England won by 66 runs
1902: England won by one wicket
1912: England won by 244 runs
1926: England won by 289 runs
1930: Australia won by an innings and 39 runs
1934: Australia won by 562 runs
1938: England won by an innings and 579 runs
1948: Australia won by an innings and 149 runs
1953: England won by eight wickets
1968: England won by 226 runs
1972: Australia won by five wickets
1985: England won by an innings and 94 runs
1993: England won by 161 runs
1997: England won by 19 runs
2001: Australia won by an innings and 25 runs
Last England victory: August 21-23, 1997
England 180 (G McGrath 7-76) & 163 (M Kasprowicz 7-36) beat Australia 220 (P Tufnell 7-66) & 104 (A Caddick 5-42) by 19 runs
Last Australia victory: August 23-27, 2001
Australia 641 for four declared (S Waugh 157 not out, M Waugh 120, J Langer 102) beat England 432 (M Ramprakash 133, S Warne 7-165) & 184 (G McGrath 5-43) by an innings and 25 runs