London, Aug 18: The Kensington Oval in London has earned a reputation of being one of the more batsman-friendly grounds in England. And the visiting Indian sides over the years would be the last to challenge the fact. Four Indian batters have notched up centuries at this venue and while none of the present stock possess that distinction, batters have generally flourished here.
Since 1936, India has taken on England ten times at this neck of the woods, losing twice, drawing on seven occasions and effecting a historic solitary win in the triumphant 1971 tour. In that encounter, it was the spin trio of Chandrashekar, Venkataraghavan and Bishen Singh Bedi that held sway, taking delight in the discovery that the pitch suited their brand of tweaking.
In fact victory seemed highly unlikely after England posted an imposing 355 in their first innings. Then after India responded with a moderately competitive 284, Chandrashekar ripped through the opponents' line-up, notching up figures of 6/38 which helped shoot out England for 101. Thus set with a target of 173, India reached home and dry with four wickets to spare.
Apart from the spin heroics that the Oval has been witness to, is the epic innings totals compiled by both these sides, especially in recent times. During the 2002 tour, England made 515 batting first before conceding 508 to India before the hosts ended the match in a tame draw at 114/0. However, Rahul Dravid's top-score of 217 stood out as a moral triumph for the visitors.
Then, 2007 saw an even bigger run-fest at the Oval with India putting on a massive 664, Anil Kumble bringing up his maiden Test century en route. England responded with a relatively modest 345 before added a quick 180, setting England a target of 500. However, the hosts batted out the last few sessions, drawing the match with their score at 369/6.
One wonders if some of that batting glory will re-infuse itself in the Indian line-up and see the visitors chalk up big scores and leave this debacle of a tour with some dignity.