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The History And Development Of The Oval Cricket Ground

Jul 18, 2008
The Kennington Oval can be considered one of the most recognisable and prestigious cricket grounds anywhere in the world. Only surpassed by Lord's in the UK its rich and illustrious history includes the first test match ever on British soil as well as a host of FA cup finals. Located in the London borough of Lambeth it is easily accessible from either the Oval or Vauxhall tube stations. The home of Surrey County Cricket Club and traditionally the last test match of the summer, it is not just a popular ground with fans; being so close to London a rising number of business hospitality package attendees have become apparent.

Originally the Kennington Oval had no relation to cricket; in 1844 the ground was host to a market garden owned by the Duchy of Cornwall, a situation that remains today. In 1845 the Duchy granted Surrey County Cricket Club with a lease to use the piece of land for cricket; this lease was based over thirty one years and charged an annual premium of one hundred and twenty pounds. When the turf was first laid in the Oval, the pieces of turf were brought from Tooting Common.

The Oval rapidly became popular with fans, in 1868 an estimated twenty thousand cricket lovers turned up to watch the first game in the Aboriginal cricket tour; the first tour a foreign team on English soil. It is doubtful that the hospitality package attendees that we see at the Oval today were present but even in these early years; cricket was a sport that relied upon business and betting for its audience.

In terms of test matches the Oval played host to the inaugural test match on English soil; the first ever test match being played at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. This test match took place between England and Australia in 1880. The Oval is the ground that saw the birth of The Ashes; the most hotly contested test series in the world of cricket. England had lost a match against Australia after a woeful two days, subsequently the ladies of the Australia team published a mock obituary giving details of the trouncing, As a result, the bails from the match were burnt and the ashes were kept in a small brown urn. This trophy continues to be the most desired in all of cricket although it is only passed between England and Australia.

Today Ashes matches are probably the most popular for fans and hospitality package attendees alike. This pinnacle of cricket nearly always ensures a great contest although it is normally Australia who comes out on top. This was not true during the last Ashes match played at the Oval; after a thrilling five match series the last day's play saw Kevin Pietersen see his team home in what has been considered by many to be the best series of test cricket in the history of the game. Quite an accolade considering the contest has more that a century of history.

The development of this ground is set to continue, although the importance of the business hospitality package has been one of the major incentives. After a new stand that was completed in 2005 increasing the capacity to twenty three thousand, the current plan is for a redevelopment of the Pavilion End, with a stand that is likely to back straight onto a hotel; the importance of business customers to the Oval is clear.

That is the world of cricket today however, for years it has played second fiddle to the national game of football but this is rapidly changing in a worldwide climate of big money contracts. Part of this growth has been a result of the Indian Premier League; a twenty twenty tournament that has attracted six figure sums for players. As money pours into the short form of the game it is grounds like the Oval who will be able to reap the benefits of this new found popularity.
About the Author
Cricket expert Thomas Pretty looks into how the Oval hospitality package industry has been vital to the ground's development.
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