Review published on July 8, 2017.
Jon Surtees has edited one of the finest anthologies of all time, Wisden at the Oval, a cricket ground with a fantastic history not just for England fans, but after the ICC win, I am sure for Pakistan fans too. Let us not forget that also in the early years of Association Football, the FA cup final was played at The Oval for a number of years. With an introduction by Micky and Alec Stewart, both of whom have graced The Oval’s cricket square, both talk about the unique feeling to playing there. Like many England fans I have my own reasons to preferring The Oval over Lords (I know, may the Gods of the MCC strike me down), one of them being the atmosphere it generates when England are playing there, especially in an Ashes series.
The chapter covering The Greatest Match only puts forward one match, and as a fan of England I totally agree with the choice, the fifth test, England v Australia, the match was drawn. This was one of the most memorable and exhilarating games, which literally brought the country to a standstill, and meant England won the Ashes for the first time since 1989.
Something I did learn from this anthology is that C. Alcock, who was secretary of Surrey CC and also happened to be secretary of the FA, was no dull suit, but a sporting innovator. Through his efforts we got the first ever test match played at The Oval, with Australia in 1880. This was the same man who founded the FA Cup and the first international football match.
There are so many wonderful chapters in this book that it would fill out the whole of this review if I went for them. Covering areas such as the golden age of cricket, when there were gentleman and players, but also what happened after the wars and the interwar period. Chapters on Bradman and Hutton two giants to both Surrey and the modern game.
This is a really wonderful anthology about The Oval, which cricket lovers will adore and be able to dip in and out of.
Paul Diggett 5/2
Wisden at the Oval by Jon Surtees
Wisden 9781472942654 hbk Jun 2017
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