We always think of the Kia Oval staging the final Test of each series in late August. But the busy international calendar has often pushed it into September and this year’s visit by India, which starts on September 2, is the fourth of a five-match series.
In this two-part series, Richard Spiller looks back at the ground’s September Tests.
After yesterday’s piece covered the matches before 2000, today we’ll be looking at all the September Tests since the changing of the millennium.
2000: England v West Indies, Aug 31-Sept 4 – England won by 158 runs
A year earlier England captain Nasser Hussain had been jeered by the crowd when his team were badly beaten by New Zealand, losing the series 2-1 and going bottom of the world rankings.
This was a very different matter as they won back the Wisden Trophy for the first time since 1973, defeat in the opening Test trumped by wins at Lord’s and Headingley – the latter in two days – which teed up the decider at The Oval. Michael Atherton (83) and Marcus Trescothick (78) put England in command in an opening stand of 159, so that a final total of 281 was disappointing until Craig White (5-32) and Dominic Cork (3-23) sent West Indies tumbling to 125 all out. Atherton, in his 102nd Test, knew it would be his final encounter with pacemen Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh and held England’s second innings together by making a typically gutsy 108, his best support coming from Alec Stewart (25) and Cork (26), Walsh finishing with 4-73 and Nixon McLean 3-60.
West Indies needed an unlikely 374 and were 32-0 overnight. How many people would turn up to see if England could finally get their hands on the Wisden Trophy? The decision to make admission £5 and free for U16s certainly helped as the ground was besieged in a way it had not been in decades, empty executive boxes being filled and spectators clambering on to any structure which offered a view.
They were not to be disappointed, Darren Gough and Andrew Caddick making the early inroads. West Indies captain Brian Lara was clearly the major obstacle but when Gough trapped him lbw for 47 it was 150-7. Standing ovations were afforded Ambrose – making his final Test appearance and cracking a defiant 28 – and his arch conspirator Walsh but when Cork claimed the final wicket West Indies were 215 all out and the party could start.
2002: England v India, Sept 5-9 – match drawn
India have become regular visitors to The Oval in recent times but this was their first game in Kennington for a decade and one which batsmen enjoyed.
Michael Vaughan’s magnificent 195 dominated the early stages as England sought to bounce back from defeat at Headingley, having gone ahead at Lord’s and then drawn at Trent Bridge, his 195 augmented by Marcus Trescothick (57), Mark Butcher (54) and Dominic Cork (52) as the hosts reached 515 all out. Harbhajan Singh took 5-115.
India relished the conditions too, Rahul Dravid ensuring he claimed the man of the match and man of series awards in making 217, half-centuries from Sachin Tendulkar and skipper Saurav Ganguly seeing the tourists finish only seven runs adrift. England were 114-0 at the end of the fourth day with a draw looking a near certainty, rain rubbing out the fifth to confirm it.
2003: England v South Africa, Sept 4-8 – England won by 9 wickets
For swaying fortunes, few Tests equal this one. Leading the series 2-1 and only needing a draw at The Oval, South Africa were 362-2 shortly before the close of the opening day and, even when they subsided to 484 all out on the second, it seemed that Herschelle Gibbs (183), Gary Kirsten (90) and Jacques Kallis (66) had pretty much shut the door on England.
Marcus Trescothick’s monumental career-best 219 continued the fightback, adding 268 for the third wicket with Graham Thorpe as the Surrey left-hander celebrated his return to international cricket after a year away with a typically compact 124. Alec Stewart, making his farewell to the game on his home ground, made 38 and just when it seemed South Africa could contain the deficit Andrew Flintoff thrilled the crowd by smashing 12 fours and four sixes in his cavalier 95 which enabled Michael Vaughan to declare at 604-9.
Now it was the turn of the bowlers to take command, Steve Harmison’s pace and bounce clearly discomforting the batsmen while Martin Bicknell – ignored by the selectors for a decade – also claimed four wickets on his home turf, the pair combining to dismiss South Africa for 229. It left the hosts needing 110, which they polished off on the final afternoon to win by nine wickets, a perfect finish for Stewart.
2005: England v Australia, Sept 8-12 – match drawn
No one who attended the final day of this match will easily forget the tension, nor the relief and joy when England finally knew they had won back The Ashes. Eight successive series defeats since 1989 had looked like becoming nine when Australia won the opener at Lord’s only for Michael Vaughan’s men to edge home at Edgbaston, draw at Old Trafford and then sneak in by two wickets at Trent Bridge. Andrew Strauss’s 129 and Andrew Flintoff’s 72 kept them afloat initially, reaching 373 all out despite Shane Warne’s 6-122, but it looked increasingly inadequate while Justin Langer (105) and Matthew Hayden (138) were putting on 185 for the first wicket over two days shortened by rain and bad light.
When they started day four at 277-2, Australia were still in control but Flintoff (5-78) and Matthew Hoggard (4-97) delivered superb spells which delivered England a barely credible six-run advantage. They lost Strauss before the close and knew they must bat through much of the final day to claim the urn, Glenn McGrath and Warne making steady inroads. But they came up against Kevin Pietersen at his thrilling best, pulling, hooking and driving with awesome power for 158. At 199-7 the match was still undecided but Ashley Giles (59) helped Pietersen add 109 for the eighth wicket and by the time they were split the fate of The Ashes had been decided, England all out for 335 and Warne’s 6-124 all in vain.
2018: England v India, Sept 7-11 – England won by 118 runs
Generally the scene of summer finales, The Oval has often been the stage for great players to exit the game but few could rival Alastair Cook’s departure.
Having announced it would be his 161st and last Test, England’s leading runscorer surely set a new record for ovations too. The series already won, Joe Root’s side made 332 all out, Cook’s 71 setting them on their way before Moeen Ali’s 50 and Jos Buttler’s thunderous 89 added substance. India looked set to fall well short despite Virat Kohli (49) and Hasuma Vihari (56) until Ravindra Jadeja’s typically canny 86no lifted them to 292.
Could Cook go out on a high? Not half, his 147 from 286 balls writing a glorious final chapter and a glorious third wicket alliance worth 259 with Root (125), captains past and present, lifting the home side to 423-8dec to leave India just over a day to make 464.
They were soon 3-2 and then 58-3 overnight, slipping to 121-5, but the tempo of the match suddenly changing as opener KL Rahul was joined by Risbbah Pant. Over the next 45 overs the pair added 204 and threatened an unlikely victory , their glorious alliance only terminated by leg-spinner Adil Rashid producing a spectacular delivery which barely pitched on the cut strip and leapt across Rahul to bowl him for 149. Pant’s spectacular 114 ended three runs later, picking out long-on off Rashid and the new ball finished the job as player-of-the-series Sam Curran struck twice and Jimmy Anderson bowled Mohammad Shami to become England’s highest wicket-taker and win the game by 118 runs.
2019: England v Australia, Sept 12-15 – England won by 135 runs
The Ashes had gone – despite Ben Stokes’s Headingley heroics – but England could still square the series 2-2 to end a summer which had seen them win the World Cup.
Sent in by Tim Paine, the hosts were bowled out for 294 and owed that to Rory Burns (47), Joe Root (57) and Jos Buttler (70), Mitchell Marsh claiming 5-46. Australia’s reply hung on the prolific Steve Smith, making 80, although support was lacking other than Marcus Labuschagne (48), sliding to 225 all out against a fierce assault from Jofra Archer (6-62). Opener Joe Denly (94) and Stokes (67) pushed England up to 329 all out, setting a target of 399, Matthew Wade’s doughty 117 fighting a losing battle as Stuart Broad and Jack Leach claimed four wickets apiece in dismissing the tourists for 263.