8 iconic Test moments at Old Trafford

Old Trafford is a name synonymous to sport. While the football stadium in Manchester is the home of football giants Manchester United, around 800 metres from it stands the older stadium of the same name. Opened in 1857 as the home of Manchester Cricket Club, the iconic stadium has been the home of Lancashire County Cricket Club since 1864 and over the years has stood witness to plentiful special cricket moments. The ground was home to Pakistan legend Wasim Akram for many years. It was here where the touring Pakistan, who pulled off an inspiring win at Lord’s last week, will play their second Test against England. England have so far played 75 Tests here, winning 26, losing 14 while 35 Tests have ended in a draw. Ahead of the second Test, Suvajit Mustafi looks at 8 iconic moments in Test cricket at the historical venue.

1.  First Test: The first-ever Test at Old Trafford was played in the summer of 1884 when Australia toured England. It was the first Test of the series and bad weather had ensured no play on Day 1. The match ended in a draw. England were on the back-foot but came back in the second innings. On a very difficult wicket to bat, WG Grace, the good old Doctor who revolutionised batting and filled stands, scored 31. As Wisden put it, “Grace exhibited great skill and judgement in scoring his 31.”

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2.  Fred Tate’s Test: The Ashes of 1902 was one of the greatest series between the two teams. It was also the series that established Victor Trumper established himself as a legend. Australia went into the fourth Test 1-0 up, and Trumper once again scored 104 (becoming the first batsman to score a hundred before lunch on Day One) out of 299, and despite Stanley Jackson’s 128 England conceded a 37-run lead.

But Bill Lockwood hit back, and Australia were soon 10 for 3. At 16 for 3 debutant Tate dropped Australian captain Joe Darling at square-leg. The next wicket fell at 64, and Australia, caught on a wet wicket, were bowled out for 86.

England needed 124, and at 92 for 3 things were under control. When last man Tate walked out, they still needed 8. Tate hit the first ball he faced for four, blocked the next two, and was bowled.

A distraught Tate told teammate Len Braund after the Test: “I have got a boy at home who will put it all right for me.” Maurice Tate obliged.

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3.  Jim Laker’s 19 wickets: In the 1956 Ashes, Laker recorded the best-ever bowling figures in First-Class cricket (let alone Test cricket), a record that stands till-date. Laker became the first bowler to claim all 10 wickets in a Test innings and could have finished with 20 wickets in the game, had his fellow spinner Tony Lock had not taken one. When Laker cleaned-up Richie Benaud, he eclipsed legendary Sydney Barnes’ 42-year-old record of 17 for 159. He finished with 19 for 90 as England won by an innings and 170 runs. Anil Kumble is the only other bowler, who claimed 10 wickets in an innings in Test cricket, in 1999.

4.  Bobby Simpson’s 311 in the 1964 yawnathon: After Australia had won the third Test at Headingley in the 1964 Ashes to take 1-0 lead, Simpson decided to go on the defensive. The fourth Test was at Old Trafford, and Australian captain Simpson, by then a 30-Test veteran, scored his maiden hundred. Not just that, he made up for lost time by smashing 311, which remains the highest at this venue. Australia declared on 656 for 8, batting till well into Day 3; it remains the highest team score on this ground. When the crowd booed them for batting on for too long, Australian wicketkeeper Wally Grout shouted from the balcony “remember Oval 1938?” The reference was, of course, to Len Hutton’s 364 and England’s 903 for 7.

England responded with 611, Ken Barrington amassing 256. The Test ended in a dull draw but will be remembered for the personal milestones. There was only time for 2 overs in the third innings, and England got Barrington and Fred Titmus to bowl them. The two share birthday!

Brief scores: Australia 1st innings 656 all out (Bobby Simpson 311, Bill Larry 106; John Price 3, Fred Rumsey and Tom Cartwright 2 wickets each) & 2nd innings 4/0 (Simpson 4 not out) drew with England 611 all out (Ken Barrington 256, Ted Dexter 174; Graham McKenzie 7 and Tom Veivers 3 wickets)

5.  Sachin Tendulkar‘s maiden hundred: By the time he ended in 2013, he had 100 international centuries to his name, but the first one will always hold a special place for Tendulkar, and not just for the sentimental value. The 1990 Test saw 6 hundreds scored, but the one by Tendulkar was exceptional and earned him the Man of the Match. At 17 and 122 days, Tendulkar had then become the second youngest Test centurion and more importantly, he saved the Test for India. When he was awarded the magnum of champagne for the award, he had to save it for later: he was still not of drinking age, you see.

6.  Shane Warne‘s magic: Around three years after Tendulkar’s magnificent hundred, another wizard of that generation, the one with the ball, Shane Warne scripted a fairytale first ball in his Ashes career. The ball, popularly termed Ball of the Century, marked the arrival of a superstar. Though Mike Gatting’s wicket will be remembered as long as the game will be played, Warne went on to bag 7 more wickets in the Test as Australia went 1-0 in the series, and the leg-spinner bagged the Man of the Match award in his very first Ashes Test.

7.  Dominic Cork’s hat-trick: Cork had a good start to his Test career with a 7-for on debut. He was playing his third Test at Old Trafford against the touring West Indians and claimed a four-for in the first innings. Just when West Indies were looking good to stage a comeback, Cork bagged a hat-trick, accounting for skipper Richie Richardson, Junior Murray and Carl Hooper off consecutive deliveries. Cork, who claimed 8 wickets and scored 56 not out, was awarded the Man of the Match as England won by 6 wickets.

8.  The draw, 2005: The Birmingham Test, which was the second of the iconic Ashes 2005, was a nail-biter that Australia lost by 2 runs. The third Test at Old Trafford was no less. After a Ricky Ponting masterpiece, the last-wicket pair of Brett Lee and Glenn McGrath had to keep out 4 overs to save the Test, not something that the champion side was used to. A defeat would have been massive for Australia and their grit paid off. Lee’s celebration after he saw through the final ball said it all.

(Suvajit Mustafi consumes cricket for lunch, fiction for dinner and munches numerous other snacks throughout the day. Yes, a jack of several trades, all Suvajit dreamt of was being India’s World Cup winning skipper but ended up being a sports writer, author, screenwriter, director, copywriter, graphic designer, sports marketer, strategist, entrepreneur, philosopher and traveller. Donning so many hats, it’s cricket which gives him the ultimate high and where he finds solace. He can be followed at @RibsGully and rivu7)