Belfast Telegraph

Home Sport Cricket

From ball of the century to England stronghold – Old Trafford on point for Ashes

The series is level at 1-1.

Old Trafford is the venue for the fourth Ashes Test (Simon Cooper/PA)
Old Trafford is the venue for the fourth Ashes Test (Simon Cooper/PA)

By Scott Hunt, PA

The fourth Ashes Test starts at Old Trafford on Wednesday with the series level at 1-1 following England’s astonishing win at Headingley.

Ben Stokes’ remarkable unbeaten 135 in Leeds has kept England’s Ashes hopes alive heading to Manchester.

Here, the PA news agency looks at Old Trafford’s Ashes history and what the two teams can expect this week.

Can England end a 38-year wait?

bpanews_7a9d9c33-2c1c-4428-91d0-ca00282d3f44_embedded21318511
England have not beaten Australia in the Ashes at Old Trafford since 1981 (PA)

Both sides will can take confidence from their records at Old Trafford.

The ground has become something of a fortress for England since the turn of the millennium. They have won nine of their last 11 Tests in Manchester, drawing the other two – both of which came against Australia.

But Australia can point to an excellent Ashes record at Old Trafford. They have not suffered defeat to England in Manchester since 1981, winning three and drawing three of the six Tests.

Overall, both sides have seven Ashes wins there, with 15 drawn Tests.

Old Trafford’s greatest Test

bpanews_7a9d9c33-2c1c-4428-91d0-ca00282d3f44_embedded22533706
Around 30,000 fans were unable to get into the ground in 2005 (Phil Noble/PA)

In 2005, Old Trafford hosted the third encounter of the Ashes series following what many view as the greatest Test of all time at Edgbaston – perhaps until last month’s Headingley masterpiece at least.

But the match lived up to the billing. England captain Michael Vaughan found form for the first time in the series with a magnificent 166 to put his side firmly on the front foot. Simon Jones then blew Australia away with six wickets as the hosts took a commanding first-innings lead.

Australia were set an unlikely victory target of 423 but captain Ricky Ponting would not lie down, hitting a brilliant 156 to give the tourists hope as England pushed for a 2-1 lead in the series.

The final day provided one of the most memorable images of recent times, as an estimated 30,000 fans were locked outside the ground after a fifth-day sellout.

Those who managed to secure a ticket got their money’s worth as local star Andrew Flintoff claimed four wickets to put England on the verge, but last pair Brett Lee and Glenn McGrath held on to salvage a dramatic draw – one Australia celebrated like a win.

‘Ball of the century’

Old Trafford hosted the series opener in 1993 and it was a match that will always be remembered – especially by Mike Gatting – for Shane Warne’s ‘ball of the century’.

England had got off to a solid start in reply to Australia’s 289, but it was their second wicket to fall that made history. The 23-year-old leg-spinner Warne, with his first delivery in what was just his 12th Test and his first Ashes encounter, produced a ball which drifted from an off-stump line to pitch outside leg stump before ripping back past the bat of Gatting and clipping the top of off.

It was a remarkable delivery which set Australia on their path to victory in that Test and in that series, and one which cemented the rising star of Warne – who would go on to claim 708 Test wickets and revive the art of leg-spin.

Buttler to fly the Lancashire flag

bpanews_7a9d9c33-2c1c-4428-91d0-ca00282d3f44_embedded244837240
Jos Buttler is in poor form (Tim Goode/PA)

James Anderson’s injury-enforced absence from the remainder of the Ashes series means Jos Buttler will be the only Lancashire player featuring for England at Old Trafford.

While not a homegrown talent, the Old Trafford crowd would love nothing more than for Buttler to shine in an England victory.

The 28-year-old will be desperate to find some form after a high score of just 31 in the series so far, with four single-figure scores.

Packed crowd will create raucous atmosphere

bpanews_7a9d9c33-2c1c-4428-91d0-ca00282d3f44_embedded243958238
The temporary stand bolsters Old Trafford’s capacity (David Davies/PA)

The modern Old Trafford is instantly recognisable for its distinctive bright red media centre, new hotel and ‘The Point’.

But perhaps the main feature of the big clashes in Manchester is the enormous temporary stand erected at the ground.

Holding in the region of 8,500 spectators and stretching high into the Manchester skyline, it is thought to be among the biggest temporary stands in Europe. The first four days have sold out, with a crowd in the region of 23,000 expected each day.

When full for the major international matches, such as the World Cup clashes earlier this summer and the annual Vitality Blast Roses match against Yorkshire, the fans generate a raucous atmosphere. The Australia side can expect quite a welcome.

PA

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph