Dubai: Australia, the top-placed team in the ICC World Test Championship 2021-23 standings, have a massive opportunity to lift the coveted mace in the final to be played at The Oval from June 7, but things may not be easy going by their recent record against India and the not so inspiring results at the famous South London venue which boasts a 143-year-year old Test history.
The only blip in Australia’s ICC World Test Championship 2021-23 cycle was their 2-1 away defeat to India. They haven’t beaten their fierce rivals both home and away in eight years – four successive series defeats, and while The Oval provides a unique neutral venue opportunity for the Pat Cummins-led side to settle scores, they are likely to face a stiff challenge considering their poor numbers at the famous venue.
Australia, who played at The Oval in 1880 in what was the first ever Test in England, have won only seven out of their 38 Tests there. England have prevailed in 17 out of these 38 games with 14 ending as draws. Australia’s win percentage of 18.42 at the venue is one of their poorest across England.
It isn’t all doom and gloom though, as it was Australia’s thrilling seven-run win in the 1882 Test that led to the creation of the Ashes trophy and series as The Sporting Times printed a mocking obituary notice following the ‘death’ of English cricket in the aftermath of the defeat.
Australia had to then wait for 48 years to taste victory again at The Oval as the Bill Woodfull-led tourists recorded a thumping innings and 39-run win in 1930. Following their 1972 Ashes Test win, Australia had to wait for another 29 years to register a victory at The Oval, winning the 2001 Test by an innings and 25 runs under Steve Waugh to complete a resounding 4-1 Ashes victory.
Australia won the 2015 Oval Test as they conceded the Ashes 3-2 while Australia’s latest Test at The Oval, the 2019 Ashes Test, was won by England by 135 runs.
Some of Australia’s Test legends have time and again showcased their individual brilliance at The Oval – the home venue for Surrey County. Legendary batter Donald Bradman has the most runs at the venue for Australia. The right-hander amassed 553 runs at 138.25 in four innings of his four Tests with the help of two centuries and one half-century. Bradman’s best at The Oval is 244.
Australia’s inspirational captain Allan Border is second on the list with 478 runs in eight innings of his four Tests at The Oval. Border averaged 79.66, his run tally including one century and four fifties.
Australia’s current batting linchpin Steven Smith has scored 391 runs in five innings of his three Tests at The Oval with the help of two centuries. Cummins and his teammates will surely be relying big time on Smith for another stellar performance in June’s Ultimate Test.
In terms of team batting performances, Australia have breached the 500-run mark in an innings five times at The Oval with their 701 in the 1934 Ashes Test, the highest. On the other hand, Australia have been bowled out for sub100 totals no less than seven times at the venue with their 44 in the 1896 Ashes Test their lowest total.
Legendary leg-spinner Shane Warne has had a memorable time at The Oval. In four Ashes Tests at the venue, Warne captured 32 wickets at 22.25 – his most wickets at a Test centre in England. Warne took two 10-wicket match hauls and three five-fors at The Oval. Warne is Australia’s leading wicket-taker at the venue.
Another Australian bowling superstar, Dennis Lillee, also had an excellent run at The Oval. The fast bowler enjoyed the pace and bounce of The Oval pitches to the fullest, collecting 27 wickets in just three appearances at 17.59 per wicket. Lillee’s tally includes two 10-wicket match hauls and three five-wicket hauls.
Off-spinner Hugh Trumble also took 27 wickets in five Ashes Tests at The Oval at 17.66 per wicket. Tumble took two 10-wicket match hauls besides three five-fors.
The leading wicket-taker in the ICC World Test Championship 2021-23 cycle, Nathan Lyon (83 wickets), has made a limited impact in his three Tests at The Oval.
The off-spinner has taken nine wickets at 30.77 with an innings best of four for 69. Lyon may yet
have a big performance waiting for the Ultimate Test, but Australia will be well placed if the
seasoned spinner gets amongst the wickets in the big final.