Compared to the patrician Lords, The Kia Oval is the “people’s ground”… and they are welcome to it. I consider it one of the least attractive, untidiest sporting venues anywhere. As with many inner city stadia including Lords, Stamford Bridge or Craven Cottage, access too it is difficult and uncomfortable. Yesterday I went to Clapham Junction and took the connecting train to Vauxhall. This was overcrowded. I did not detect the expectant feeling of Nottingham, as the Ashes were re-cremated and in their English box now. We than had a dismally slow pedestrian procession through roadworks down Harleyford Road with early morning tipplers blocking the pavement with their lagers. The cramped and untidy ground is a hotch potch of one huge stand (OCS), a redbrick pavilion that does not have the elegance of its Lords equivalent and a collection of smaller double-decker stands that resemble a sixties-style boxy office block. At least when I reached the upper level of the Alec Bedser stand I was greatly relieved – in every sense – to see a WC at our level, less so that a stair rail bisected my view .
Years ago – it must have been in the 1980s – I visited my parents who had an apartment near Fort Lauderdale. My father and I visited the Joe Robbie stadium, the home of the Miami Dolphins. The stadium has, I believe, been replaced twice since then but still is light years ahead of any British one. Take access: four walk-way towers in each corner that got 80,000 fans in and out with no problem. At every entrance point to the seating section on a wide concourse there was a food outlet with ladies and gents WC to each side of it. I never queued once. The sight lines were impeccable. In fact everything the Oval is not. Aah, but the Oval has atmosphere. Has it? I saw no sign of the Barmy Army and it was the same old lager louts in checked shirts and shirts ferrying to and forth with panniers of 4 pints of lager. A dear friend of mine, a heavy hitter in the ad world, texted me that he was in the adjacent Pavilion and had Jon Edrich, Sir John Major and Sir Trevor MacDonald in his row. I felt quite jealous of the buffet he was about to sample as I tucked in my M & S Lochmuir salad at lunch listening to Gideon Haigh and Mike Atherton on TMS speak eloquently on the Ashes.
There was little competitiveness on the pitch. It was like that period in school after exams are over and you are messing around for the end of term. The hype that Cook and England wanted to win 4-1 and it’s still an Ashes match was overblown. England would have done better to bring in Rashid and another batter with Bairstow as wicketkeeper as we need a tested squad for South Africa. Ivan Conway texted from sunny Hove that Sussex had Yorkshire 6 down for 254 but Ballance and Bresman, who might make the squad, took the end of play score to 364. Now the Brighton and Hove Job. com has a lovely seaside feel with the deckchairs, sea gulls and sea air as well as a ridiculous sponsored name.