ICC CWC Looking back to the opening match at The Oval

England v South Africa ODI 30 May 2019 by Mike Prentis
I managed to get in 1.5 hours work before catching the Northern Line from Moorgate to Oval. The streets were busy with late comers as I waited at 9.55am for my friend Matt. We were joined by Tony and Andrew. We had to queue for a while to get in through the Alec Stewart gate, before making our ways to our seats at the Western end of the OCS stand.
What an atmosphere, a full house at 10.30am. Coming back to the Oval always reminds me of my first visit, in 1966. With a friend and his father, a Surrey member, we sat in the seats at the front of the pavilion as Wes Hall walked back almost to the pavilion steps to start his run up. The opposition were the West Indies in 1966; I was 9. My other memory was being introduced to a rather suave man called Denis. I am virtually certain that man was Denis Compton.
Still, today we have lost the toss and are fielding. On a good Oval wicket it feels we need to set a total of near to 350, with 300 the minimum defendable score. Bairstow out first ball was a blow. But Roy and Root dug in well, and we saw a few excellent classic effortless straight drives for 4, all along the ground. It felt like a good wicket. Time for first beers it seemed. The beer I was handed came from just behind us; revolting weak tasteless, fizzy lager; I think it was called Blonde. After the second beer, I set off round the ground to find some real ale, as I knew you can always find it at The Oval. I walked clockwise round the ground, looking where normally real ale is for sale. Nothing, just Biri! Sadly I had to return to the others, not only having missed the wickets of Roy and Root, but with just 4 more pints of ‘Blonde’! Talking later to an official, I was told that this is an ICC event. They chose the beer provider. In my opinion they chose poorly!
Anyway Stokes batted well, and so did Morgan. Entertaining stuff. Morgan’s dismissal was a blow, as was Buttler’s not so long after. 350 was looking a stretch. The most interesting later moments of the innings included Archer’s classic drive for 4 through the covers. He was looking promising even before he bowled. The end total was respectable but we would have to defend well.
On my walk round the ground I noted that on the far of the ground curry was on offer, I imagine from the local Kennington Tandoori. I tried this curry during the shortened England v Pakistan ODI , it was excellent.
We gathered, during the break between innings, that there were a number of billionaires in the ground, including the Hindujas, and another pointed out to us who was definitely incognito in his maroon baseball cap. I did spot Stephen Fry looking very happy in the pavilion.
Archer bowled well at the start of, and throughout, the South Africa innings. His fluid, languid action off a short run still enables him to generate great speed. Buttler was standing more than a pitch length behind the stumps! He bowled threateningly and deserved his wickets; he was hard to score off. De Cock played well, and his wicket was key. After that South Africa lost momentum and didn’t look likely to threaten England’s total.
The catching on the day was breath taking. The South Africans took a few great catches in the deep. But the best catch was Stokes’s to dismiss Phehlukwayo, a leap into the air running backwards and taken in one hand. As the shot was played the ground went quite, the ball was on its way towards Stokes. I lost sight of it off the bat. Then the crowd behind Stokes erupted. The replay showed Stokes had caught the seemingly impossible.
The chants of ‘It’s coming’ home started in front of us, and some competitive chanting for Moeen and Amla, with a South African group to our right in good voice, and all in South African kit.
It was now just a matter of time. England won a convincing victory, which had seemed unlikely two hours earlier. Happy, we wandered off the Fentiman Arms for a good pint of real ale.
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