The Oval Cricket Ground

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

The Oval is known by cricket fans all over the world, and is based in the borough of Lambeth, South London. It is the home of Surrey County Cricket Club but it is also one of the key test grounds for the England Cricket Team, regularly hosting matches in the biggest series. Traditionally, the final test of the English cricket season is played at the Oval.

In this guide, we’re sharing some more information about The Oval, Surrey, and the role this ground has to play in the world of cricket. 

Key Facts

Capacity of the ground: 27,500

Address: Kennington Oval, London SE11 5SS

Sponsor: Kia (The Kia Oval)

Information About The Oval Cricket Ground

There may not be another ground in the world with this kind of amazing history. The ground is built around the famous Kennington Common which used to host matches in the early 1700s, at an amateur level. 

The ground is owned by the Duchy of Cornwall and therefore the royal family, but leased out for the purposes of cricket. It was originally a market garden and cabbage patch, if you can believe that. 

Surrey County Cricket Club (SCCC) was established in 1845 at the ground, making it one of the oldest cricket clubs out there, and as early as 1868 there were England matches at the venue. The first of these was against the Aboriginal cricket side. In 1880, England and Australia played the first official test match.

Interestingly, the ground hasn’t always been used just for cricket, and in an interesting piece of trivia, it hosted the England team’s first-ever international football match, as well as the first FA Cup Final.

Huge developments have taken place since the turn of the century, including redevelopment of the Vauxhall Road End, the addition of artificial lighting, and general modernisation of the ground. The Oval has facilities for corporate events, and there are 55 different rooms and spaces that can be rented out for conferences and the like. 

The Oval is also home to the Long Room. Built in 1898, the room is packed full of portraits of the Surrey and England greats and has an amazing view out onto the pitch. Those of us who have seen test cricket on television that takes place at the oval will have seen the Long Room in use, and the stunning artwork inside. It serves as a museum to the history of the game.

But it is the cricket that is most important, and The Oval is now a modern ground that can accommodate 27,500 people, with plans for expansion in the future.

What’s it Like to Watch Cricket at The Oval?

This is a ground steeped in history, there is no denying that, but the facilities are not lacking, and the ground has hosted some of the best games in the history of the sport. If you walk around the Oval you get a real sense of the hundreds of years worth of cricket that have taken place here, as well as other events such as football matches and even concerts. 

That history can also be enjoyed in the Oval Museum, and tours take part at the ground on days that aren’t match days. This is a way to see all of the artwork and other interesting features at the Oval cricket ground. 

Like pretty much every big ground now, there are multiple teams that you can watch play, both domestically and internationally, at the Kia Oval.

Test Cricket

As we’ve already stated, this is one of the venues that hosts tests to this day, including the final match of the England test summer in most circumstances. The London cricket grounds where cricket is played tend to be some of the best places to watch tests, with both atmosphere and history attached to them. 

International One Day Cricket

Plenty of men’s and women’s one day cricket is played at the Oval, too. International cricket matches are a huge draw at the Oval. The first ever ODI to take place there was against the West Indies way back in 1973.

County Championship

Surrey call the oval their home ground. They compete in the County Championship and have won it on an impressive 20 different occasions, in  1890, 1891, 1892, 1894, 1895, 1899, 1914, 1952, 1953, 1954, 1955, 1956, 1957, 1958, 1971, 1999, 2000, 2002, 2018, and 2022. 

Jim Laker, John Edrich, Kevin Pieterson, and the great Jack Hobbs have all played for Surrey at some stage, along with plenty of other amazing and influential players.

Domestic One Day Cricket

Surrey compete in domestic one day competitions including the T20 Blast. The name Surrey Lions was used for their one day teams for a while, before 2006 and from 2010 to 2012, whilst from 2006 to 2010 they went by the Surrey Brown Caps, but they eventually settled on the name Surrey. 

The Hundred

In the newest of the competitions, The Hundred, they compete as the Oval Invincibles. The men’s team are yet to win the tournament, but the women’s team have won it twice already.

Food and Drink

In terms of choice, the Oval is one of the best places for food and drink at the cricket. 

They have 25 different bars and pubs around the ground including the cleverly-named “Nip Back Inn” serving a selection of beers, ales, ciders, and wines. 

In terms of food, there are certain establishments open for every match, and some that open specifically for one day and international games. In terms of the mainstays, they include:

  • Olive Bros – Mediterranean gyros wraps
  • Piglets Pantry – Pies, sausage rolls, quiches
  • Deep Blue – Fish & Chips
  • Gamekeeper – Game Burgers
  • Oh My Dog – Gourmet Hot dogs
  • Pizza & Co – Pizza
  • Change Please – Coffee for charity
  • Kennington Tandoori – Authentic curry
  • Envie – Louisiana street food

For T20, the Hundred, and international matchdays, Surrey County Cricket Club guarantees at least 15 vendors will be open to ensure lots of choice. 

They’re also committed to responsible and sustainable practice, and dietary choices: 

“All ingredients are both responsibly sourced and sustainably prepared and the menus are designed to ensure our diverse audience are catered for regardless of their dietary desires (including vegetarian, vegan and gluten free options throughout).”

Like many other cricket grounds, fans are not allowed to bring their own alcoholic drinks into the ground, although food is permitted. 

Getting to The Oval

The Kia Oval is easy to reach from anywhere in central London. 

The Oval has an underground station conveniently called Oval Tube Station. It takes about two minutes to walk there, but it can get busy. This is on the Northern Line. 

If it is more convenient, it is also easy to get to the Oval via Vauxhall Tube Station, which is a 10 minute walk and is on the Victoria line. Not as close as the Oval Station, but still easy enough. 

Vauxhall Station is perfect for those traveling by rail and is well connected to the south and west of England, with trains coming from Waterloo. 

In terms of London Buses, watch out for route numbers 36, 185 and 436 which all stop outside the ground and the following buses stop within a five-minute walk of the Kia Oval: 3, 59, 109, 133, 159, 333.

Map of The Kia Oval

This map shows both the ways in and out, and the local area, plus bus stops. The Oval doesn’t have a ‘party stand’ in the same way some other grounds do, but amazing views can be found at the pavilion end (of course). 

Notable Matches

Ashes 2005 – Fifth Test

The 2005 Ashes will go down in history. Never has a draw been celebrated quite like that. The match was finely poised for such a long time, and some brilliant bowling from Shane Warne, taking 6/122 in the first innings, plus centuries from Matthew Hayden, Kevin Pieterson, and Andrew Strauss meant plenty of entertainment for both sides over the course of the test.

Eventually, on day five, in the final test match in the series, play was abandoned due to bad light and England went crazy celebrating their draw. We’ve all seen the footage.

Holding Announces Himself For West Indies – 1976

The dominant team of the West Indies in the late 70s and 80s had some incredible players, including Viv Richards, who scored an incredible 291. Having seen a hot summer, many put the score down to flat pitches, but the incredible Whispering Death made the pitch talk, and took 14 English wickets, with 12 of these being bowled or leg before wicket. The Windies smashed England 3-0 in the series and looked unplayable at times. 

Don Bradman’s Farewell – 1948

One of those cricketing events that will go down in history, and folklore, took place at the Oval. 

Don Bradman, playing in an incredible Australian side, was playing in his final match for his country. As he walked out at number three, the Aussies were 117-1 and his stage was set. As long as he scored four runs in his innings, he would end his career with figures of over 100, and become the only batter to ever achieve such a feat.

Instead, Eric Hollies bowled him second ball. This was a stunning turn of events and saw Bradman’s average end at a painstaking 99.94. This is still a total nobody has even got close to, and perhaps the story should merely be that the greatest ever to play the game said his goodbyes at this iconic venue, the Oval cricket ground. 

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