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Caribbean cricket fans in London - a history

ICONIC: The Kia Oval

THE KENNINGTON OVAL will become the fourth cricket ground to host its 100th Test match when England take on South Africa in July.

The West Indies will bring down the curtain on a busy cricketing summer at the iconic venue, which includes six ICC Champions Trophy games, when they face England in the fourth match of their one-day series on 27 September.

A conversation about the rebranded Kia Oval and West Indies cricket invariably turns to 1984 and the 5-0 ‘Blackwash’ of England. That West Indies team were the latest in a line of Caribbean tourists to win on English soil.

The Oval in particular, with its layers of sporting history and the instantly recognisable Victorian gasholders at the Vauxhall End, has often smiled on the team.

The West Indies’ first series success in England came in 1950 when they sealed a 3-1 series victory at the ground by defeating their hosts by an innings and 56 runs.


It was a sign of things to come and a far cry from August 1928, when the West Indies first visited this corner of south London. They lost by an innings and 71 runs on the occasion of the Oval’s 19th Test match.

WICKETS: Michael Holding

The ground has become synonymous with the final Test of the English summer but it was the first Test of that tour and it set the tone for a 3-0 series defeat.

Happier times were to come and the Oval’s fabric has long been embroidered with maroon. The ground is a stone’s throw from the traditional heartlands of African-Caribbean London. From the mid-1950s onwards, families arrived, the community developed and so too did the fortunes of a West Indies team in England. Caribbean cricket fans regularly packed out the Oval as their heroes continually lifted the Wisden Trophy during the ensuing decades.


Other Oval-related claims to fame include the West Indies beating England by eight wickets in the first one-day international to be held at the ground, in 1973.

Between 1975 and 1983, the West Indies won three World Cup semi-finals there and went on to the lift the trophy in both 1975 and 1979.

During their 1976 tour of England, Viv Richards scored 829 runs, including 291 in the first innings at the Oval in the fifth Test. That match also saw Michael Holding take 8-92 and 6-57 on a difficult wicket as the tourists took the series 3-0. In 1988 a 4-0 series win was also claimed in south London.

On the domestic front, pace bowler Sylvester Clarke is recalled fondly by Surrey fans who remember his fierce deliveries. The Bajan represented the county between 1979 and 1988 and is said to be the only bowler who made Richards uncomfortable.

Current Surrey bowler Ravi Rampaul made his international T20 debut at the Oval when the West Indies beat England by 15 runs. It was also the venue’s first international in the game’s shortest format.

The West Indies’ fortunes fluctuate, but the Oval has often proved a home from home.

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