Match of the Day - Surrey v Sussex, 3rd day April 15, 2005

Not so fantastic Mr Fox

Surrey 33 for 1 trail Sussex 370 by 333 runs
Scorecard

The Oval fox on a happier day © PA Photos

It's been a bad week for foxes. Up at Grace Road, Leicestershire have been plummeting towards a thumping defeat at the hands of Durham: meanwhile, at The Oval, a more conventional (furry) version has been scaling unprecedented heights - much to its own discomfort.

There are many things you expect to see at the top of the great Oval gas-holder - which, until the arrival of Surrey's new OCS Stand, was arguably the major landmark in SE11. Flags of the two nations who happen to be battling out a Test match, giant-size posters of Alec Stewart proclaiming that the Ashes are coming home. The odd stray pigeon, perhaps. A lost urban fox, however, is something entirely new.

There seems only one feasible manner in which the not-so-sly beast managed to make its way up to a height of 200 feet or more. The level of the gas-holder rises and falls in accordance with its usage, and presumably the fox strayed onto the roof when the level was at its lowest. And forgot to get off.

As a consequence it has been padding around the perimeter, forlornly contemplating its existence, for who knows quite how long since. According to Chris Adams, the Sussex captain, the players spotted it during one of their lengthy rain-breaks on the second day, and it wasn't until the third afternoon that it resumed its laps and came back into view.

Opinions varied as to what to do with it. One public-spirited member of the press corps set about ringing the RSPCA, and was promptly (and improbably) sent delving into his Wisden to dig out the postcode of The Oval. Another reckoned that, seeing as the ground is owned by the Duchy of Cornwall, they'd be better off ringing Charles and Camilla (or else make a quick call to the nearby House of Lords) and set the dogs on it. Hunting foxes is now illegal, but in the circumstances, it might not object too vehemently.

At least it had plenty of water to keep it going, and a chance to drink in a fine view that is deprived to most other denizens of this part of London. The Oval's new stand will soon change that, however, and on an afternoon tour of the building site, we were able to stand on the new roof terrace and appreciate just how well positioned this ground is - with views to the north of the Houses of Parliament, Battersea Power Station, the Millennium Wheel; and to the south, the great expanse of surburbia - and all those dustbins that the gas-holder's new squatter will be straight back into when his little jaunt is over.

He wasn't the only person straying into places he shouldn't, however. Almost two-thirds of the ground is very clearly cordoned off from the public, with large padlocked gates and big signs demanding hard hats and high-visibility clothing. That didn't stop one old chap with his carrier bag from wandering in and plonking himself in a prime position at midwicket, before being ushered off-site by a bemused club official. At least his way in was more obvious - he had strayed straight in off the street through a truck-size hole in an otherwise very secure security fence.

Other than these strange visitations, the third day's play between Surrey and Sussex was utterly unremarkable - Mark Ramprakash hit a cover-drive, James Kirtley had an lbw appeal, rain had the final say. But it was the unexpected visitor who stole all the headlines.

Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. He tweets @miller_cricket

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