SACricketmag.com revisits the last five Tests between England and South Africa at The Oval.
1965: Third Test
In what was the eighth Test between the sides in the space of just nine months, South Africa were closing in on their first series victory over England for 30 years, and after nine attempts of trying, The Oval proved the venue to end the barren run. They won at Trent Bridge by 65 runs, before sealing a well-earned draw at The Oval. It was closely contested at first as Tiger Lance’s 69 got them to 208, before Peter Pollock’s 5-43 restricted England to 202. Colin Bland then lifted the visitors to 392, before England got to 308-4, at which point play was called.
1994: Third Test
England won by eight wickets
In the first series between the sides after readmission, South Africa were looking to leave their mark in England with a series victory in their sights, this after thrashing the English at Lord’s before drawing at Headingley. And they looked well set, after a rearguard stand between Brian McMillan (93) and Dave Richardson (59) got them to 332. Graham Thorpe’s 79 and Alec Stewart’s 62 carried England to 304 with a 28-run deficit.
The critical point in that innings however, was Fanie de Villiers’ bouncer to No 11 Devon Malcolm. Malcolm got hit flush on the helmet, and that enraged Malcolm after the chirps came his way from the slips cordon. ‘F*** off, I’m going to kill you guys. You guys are f****** history,’ Malcolm said in response. Sure enough, Malcolm wreaked havoc, taking 9-57, then the sixth-best figures in Test history and second-best between the sides, to bowl South Africa out for 175.
England’s scorecard in response was something you’d align more to today’s game, as they struck 205 off just 35.2 overs, with Graeme Hick scoring a run-a-ball 81, for the English to win by eight wickets and tie the series at 1-1.
2003: Fifth Test
England won by nine wickets
It was a series which the English appeared to have no hope of salvaging after new South African captain Graeme Smith’s back-to-back double hundreds blew the hosts away, but luckily for the English they still had to play at The Oval, on a ground the South Africans had still never won at in their history. And it was a resounding victory for the hosts, as a double hundred from Marcus Trescothick and a century from Thorpe saw them pile on 604-9 in response to South Africa’s 484. The Proteas then gave England 110 for victory, and they saw it off with nine wickets to spare. It does, however, remain the most entertaining series between the sides, with Smith’s troops having to settle for the 2-2 draw.
2008: Fourth Test
England won by six wickets
The sides travelled to south London with the series already in the bag for the Proteas at 2-0, but the tourists were still very keen to break The Oval hoodoo. The English once again had other ideas in a match, and indeed a series, that shaped Kevin Pietersen into one of the best batsmen in the world.
He might have ultimately been on the losing side, but he was named Man of the Series for his 421 runs from his seven innings, which included a blistering century in England’s first innings. The fourth Test was also Pietersen’s first match as captain of the side, after Michael Vaughan resigned following a run of poor form. Pietersen was named Man of the Match in what was the beginning of an ultimately unsuccessful stint at the helm. England won by a comfortable six wickets to take a consolation victory.
2012: First Test
South Africa won by an innings and 12 runs
What a way to win your first Test at The Oval. The Proteas did it in record-breaking fashion, as Hashim Amla became the first South African to score a triple century. England thought they’d posted a competitive 385 in their first innings thanks to an Alastair Cook century, and when James Anderson accounted for Alviro Petersen for a duck, it was full steam ahead. The other three that form the top four however were unstoppable, as two massive partnerships blew the English away.
A 259-run partnership between Graeme Smith and Amla was damaging enough, but when Smith departed for 131, Amla and Jacques Kallis continued in what was then the highest partnership ever between the sides. They amassed 377, as Amla surpassed AB de Villiers’ 278*, before going on to reach the magical 300. They declared on 637-2, before a flustered England could only muster 240, to set up the crushing win.
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