1997 Onwards -
Below is the text of Sir John Major’s article on “The Memories of the Oval”, published by The Times on 7th September 2005.
SIR JOHN MAJOR:
It is over fifty years since I first entered The Oval: now, welcome shadows from the past are my companions on every visit. For me, The Oval has so many happy memories that my heart lifts the moment I arrive -
As a young boy at The Oval, clutching sandwiches and a bottle of Tizer, I sat on the wooden benches opposite the famous Gasometers watching the greatest County side of all (sorry, Yorkshire) win the Championship seven years in a row. The Oval was always my first destination during the long summer holiday.
Games from those early years are still bright and clear in my mind. Stuart Surridge -
Memories crowd in. Aged 10, I couldn’t get a ticket for the Final Ashes Test in 1953. I heard a tout had some for sale, and rushed up to him eagerly, money clutched tightly in hand, but he looked at me with scorn and named a premium far beyond my means. With wet eyes, I withdrew and had to settle with disappointment for the radio instead. But I did see Denis Compton’s final Test Innings in 1956: 94 caught, right in front of me, backward of square, and sweeping of course.
Once, I attempted to time how many seconds it took a Peter May drive to hit the Pavilion fence. In doing so, I dropped my father’s precious gold stop-
Other shadows are ever-
Sometimes, it rains (please, not today) and Oval habitués fill the wet gaps with their reminiscences. As a boy, on the old raked wooden seats, I heard gnarled old-
Bradman was much on our minds that day as, during an earlier break, there’d been a discussion as to which end he was batting in his final Test Match, when Eric Hollies famously bowled him for nought.
“Surely you must know,” one of the group said, turning to Arthur Morris, who was quietly sipping a glass of wine: “Yes”, said Arthur placidly, “I was at the other end. I scored 196”.
Those who visit The Oval today will see the new Stand that Surrey has built at the Vauxhall End which is, I think, as fine as any in cricket. I was privileged to be President of Surrey for two seasons when this project began and played a small part in bringing it about. We began fundraising with an England v Rest of the World team led by Sachin Tendulkar. Alas, Sachin fell ill the night before the game, and was confined to his hotel room. But the crowd forgave us. The sun shone. The game was played, and the memory bank was fed again. So were the coffers, and Surrey went on to build the Stand.
As the crowd pours into The Oval on this first day of the Final Test, there will be high hopes and expectations. From the very young, to the very old, England’s second greatest invention -
Many years ago, when I was a young Whip in the Commons, I had to sit for hours on the Treasury Bench listening to (often rather boring) speeches.
I passed the time writing brief poetic sketches of the Parliamentary characters of the day (best not published in their -
“Oh, Lord, if I must die today,
Please make it after Close of Play.
For this, I know, if nothing more,
I will not go, without the score …”
Hardly Wordsworth, I know, but it is a sentiment that many will share over the next five days. On the field will be some of the greatest talents in world cricket of whom, one day, old men -
This Ashes Series has been the stuff of legend. Drama has been commonplace and, in at least two cricket-