It was back in the summer of 2003 as the England vs South Africa test series moved on from the Trent Bridge test with the score locked at 1-1. On that occasion the teams moved to Headingley. The first day of that test saw my first trip to watch professional cricket. It was an eventful and memorable day. The rest as they say, is history.
Fast forward fourteen years and the situation is identical. As the teams move on from Nottingham, the scores are tied at 1-1. But this time, rather than heading to Leeds, they move south to the famous Oval, for what will be the 100th test at this historic venue.
This London stadium has hosted some of the most instrumental moments in English and world cricketing history. It was at this venue back in 1882 that Australia defeated England, leading to the birth of the Ashes. In 1938, England recorded their highest ever test score of 903/7 declared.
A decade later Don Bradman strode to the crease needing just four runs in his final test innings to finish with a career average of over 100. He was bowled by Eric Hollies for a second ball duck in a moment that has been discussed many a time in the subsequent years.
In 1999, England were defeated by New Zealand and relegated to the bottom of the test rankings. Six years later, the late English summer witnessed Michael Vaughan’s England regain the Ashes for the first time since the 1980s.
It is fair to say then that this stadium has seen a mixture of ups and downs for England. The same can be said for this series. England started strongly in first test, winning well within four days. The South Africans fought back last week with a thumping win in Nottingham.
For the third instalment in this enjoyable series, England have made two confirmed changes so far, with two debutantes coming into the team. Essex’s Tom Westley comes in for Gary Ballance, with the Yorkshireman sidelined with a hand injury. Durham’s Mark Wood also misses out through injury with Toby Roland-Jones stepping in. It will be interesting to see how they go this week.
South Africa will be buoyed by the return of paceman Kagiso Rabada. JP Duminy has gone home after recent struggles with the bat.
The Headingley test at 2003 saw South Africa slump to 142/7 before Gary Kirsten and Monde Zondeki rescued the side to 342 all out. South Africa went on to win by a resounding 191 runs.
These teams are so well evenly matched. This venue has a history of great cricket.
I think it is fair to say that fans of both teams can expect a rollercoaster ride again over the next five days.
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