Major bowled over by his Oval house

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The Independent Online
John Major is moving house to be near his first love - cricket.

Cleaver Square, Kennington, may be one of the most sought-after Georgian Squares in south London, but the clincher for Mr Major was the fact that it was within hailing distance of the Oval, the home of Surrey Cricket Club, where he is a member.

Mr Major, who once nursed the ambition of being a professional batsman in Surrey's kit, always found time for cricket when he was Prime Minister, asking for the Test match scores on the scrambler wherever he was abroad.

On the day after the general election, he eased the pain of defeat by taking the family to the Oval to get away from it all. And when Hong Kong was being handed over to the Chinese, cricket came first. Mr Major eschewed the ceremony and stayed in Britain to attend the memorial service for Denis Compton.

The Majors' new home also happens to be a short drive away from Westminster, but now that he has more time on his hands, Mr Major is expected to be sneaking off more often to see a few more maidens bowled at his beloved club.

Norma Major, on the other hand, may have doubts about becoming a cricket widow after their holiday on Sardinia's Costa Smeralda on the yacht of the multi-millionaire John Paul Getty II, a fellow cricket fanatic.

They first met in a box at the Oval and Mr Getty allowed the Majors to stay at his house in Cadogan Square, in central London, after they left 10 Downing Street.

Mr Major is now joining an expanding band of politicians who are being attracted to Kennington, where 3- to 4-bedroom houses typically sell for not less than pounds 300,000. The Majors' neighbours will include Roger Liddle, now a member of Tony Blair's Downing Street policy unit; Jack Straw, the Home Secretary, and Paddy Ashdown, the Liberal Democrat leader.

Most of their neighbours are young City traders who have cashed in on their stock market bonuses, although some of the houses are still occupied by locals in the square, where Porches nestle next to Ford Escorts. "It is one of the best locations in the area, and property prices have gone up by pounds 100,000 in the past year because it is so sought-after," said one local estate agent.

They are keeping their home at in Great Stukeley, Cambridgeshire, which they bought in 1983, in Mr Major's Huntingdon, constituency. The Majors' acquisition of another London home will raise questions about where the money is coming from, as for most of the past 18 years, Mr Major has been prevented from earning a skyscraper salary in the City, because he was a minister.