Pitch report: The Oval, London
This track is traditionally not one for spinners, so England's senior pacemen, and India's returning Ishant Sharma, should have the better time of it with the ball, though batsmen tend to have the upper hand on the flat-ish deck.
<b>Established:</b> 1845<br><b>Capacity:</b> 23,500<br>Floodlights:</b> Yes<br><b>Ends:</b> Pavilion End, Vauxhall End<br><b>Home Team:</b> Surrey<br><b>Test History:</b> 96 Tests; 39 home wins; 20 away wins; 37 draws<br><b>Last 10 Tests:</b> 5 home wins; 2 away wins; 3 draws<br><b>Last 10 tosses:</b> 10 batted first (3 wins, 4 defeats, 3 draws)
<b>Overview</b><br>The Oval is a venue blessed with a rich sporting history, which includes playing host to the first Test match on English soil, a game in which WG Grace scored a century in England's win against Australia in 1880. Significantly it was at The Oval that the legend of the Ashes was born and the great Sir Donald Bradman played his final Test innings at the ground.
Apart from cricket the venue was also host to the first official international football match as well as the first rugby international in England in the early 1870s. Another notable fixture was the first ever FA Cup final in 1872.
The Oval now traditionally plays host to the final Test of the English summer and has therefore seen some dramatic finishes in its time. From the 1968 Ashes Test when supporters pitched in to mop a sodden ground in time for Derek Underwood to bowl the Australians out to square the series, to Kevin Pietersen's match-saving – and series-winning – 158 in 2005 against the same opposition, The Oval's history is sparkled with magical moments and memories.
It too was the scene of Inzamam-ul-Haq and company's defiant walk-off in 2006 after umpire Darrell Hair's accusations broke the proverbial camel's back. A spectacular new stand to complement the huge pavilion has made for a more pleasant viewing experience, and the famous old ground continues to be developed, with floodlights the latest new arrival in South London. The most well known feature, of course, is the gasometers to the east of the ground.
<b>Last Time Out</b><br>The most recent Test at the venue was the final Ashes Test of 2013, which ended in a draw. England had already won the series, and came close to making it four nil here, if not for the light meters.
Australia batted first and scored 492 for nine declared, with big centuries from Shane Watson and Steve Smith. James Anderson was the pick of the bowlers, taking four wickets, while Graeme Swann bagged two.
England's fist innings was less impressive, making 337 all out. Joe Root and Kevin Pietersen who also made a fifty in the second innings, were the only recorders of half tons, while James Faulkner took four wickets.
The Aussies then stumbled in their second dig, declaring on 111 for six, but not before Stuart Broad could take four wickets. This left England with a target of 227, and they fell just 21 runs short as the light faded.
<b>They Said</b><br>More to follow…
<b>Happy Hunting Ground</b><br>England's bets current batsmen at this ground are Ian Bell and Alastair Cook, with Bell ahead of his skipper by just nine runs. They both average 45 here, with top scores of 325 and 115 respectively.
Obviously, given how few of the India players have even been to England before this tour, none of them feature on the batting list. They're not in the wickets either.
England's most successful bowler here is James Anderson, who has 31 wickets in nine Tests. It's not his favourite ground though, averaging over 35. Stuart Broad is marginally better, with 22 wickets in six Tests, averaging 31.
<b>Weather Forecast</b><br>Cloud cover is forecast for all five days, in some form or other, though only day three seems threatened by proper rain in the afternoon.
<b>Conclusion</b><br>This track is traditionally not one for spinners, so England's senior pacemen, and India's returning Ishant Sharma, should have the better time of it with the ball, though batsmen tend to have the upper hand on the flat-ish deck.
Unlike Trent Bridge, this is not a 'look up instead of down' toss decision, so even if there is cloud cover, one expects the side who wins the coin flip to bat first, as they have in the past 10 Tests.
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