First-person reports from the stands
Choice of game
I chose the fourth day of the fourth Test about half a year ago, in the hope that it would provide a thrilling finale to the series. After all the hype about the best team in the world arriving on our shores, I was expecting great things. Little did I know how wrong I would be. India have been on the receiving end of a demolition job, and the closely fought match I had expected turned into a one-sided affair with little resistance.
Perhaps I was being a little harsh on India earlier as one man provided a small spark in the tunnel for the tourists. Rahul Dravid was definitely the performer of the day. He seems to sneak under the radar of sides and yet is highly effective. Despite being barely noticeable all day, he managed to make an unbeaten 146 in a fairly poor Indian effort. A banner in the crowd that said "Dravid versus England" got it right. He has looked the only class act in a highly rated, yet in this series relatively ineffective, batting line-up. He was a joy to watch, playing some beautiful shots through the covers. I was most impressed by the way he played Graeme Swann. He looked at home by playing the ball late and on its merit.
One thing I'd have changed
Sitting on the end of a row meant I was constantly standing up, then sitting down, then immediately having to stand up again to let people pass. I wish there had been more room between my feet and the seat in front so I could have a more relaxing experience. Apart from that, everything was perfect.
Filling the gaps
After devouring a pork baguette I watched an excellent Q&A session between Stuart Broad and his father Chris Broad, one of the current ICC match referees. Broad senior spoke of his experiences both as a player and as an official, and answered some interesting questions from the audience. He also mentioned that he still rings Stuart up to "scold him" when junior's volatile temper flares up once too often.
The stunning one-handed catch by Ian Bell at short leg off Tim Bresnan was the stand-out moment of the day. Diving away to his right - the whole crowd had that short moment of disbelief before realising what had happened - he took the catch to send Amit Mishra on his way. If you were not able to see it do look it up on Youtube. It was an absolute screamer!
Shot of the day
Mishra's huge six down long-on was the most memorable one for me. I was sitting in the direction in which he played the shot but was grateful he did not hit it as far back. I have unfortunately shelled catches on many an occasion in my short cricketing career and am glad I did not have to make a fool of myself in the middle of a rather unforgiving crowd.
Surprise of the day
India's batting has been shoddy at best in the series so far, so when I looked over at the scoreboard and noticed they had put on 300 runs I almost went into a state of shock. I assumed there must be a technical hitch but was assured by my fellow spectators that India had indeed reached that milestone for the first time in the series. However, the fanatical Indian fans were soon sobbing into their beer glasses as the team lost two wickets in three balls.
There was a religious theme running through the day's fancy dress as nuns, monks and bishops all turned out in force. And I was taken aback when three men dressed as Jesus walked through the turnstiles and headed for the beer tent around 11am! Maybe it was fitting that this theme was prominent, as the Indians required a miracle of biblical proportions to be successful in this Test match. Speaking of Indians, I also noticed a couple on the field dressed as cricketers, but I won't take that any further.
Second only to Lord's as the best Test ground in the country, I find The Oval always provides a brilliant viewing experience. I have enjoyed many hours watching cricket here and will always continue to visit.
Marks out of 10
9. A great day's cricket and only witnessing Tendulkar's 100th hundred or England whitewashing the series could have improved on it.
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