The home of cricket in Lancashire is the Old Trafford Cricket Ground. Cricket has been played at the ground since 1857 when it started as the home ground of Manchester Cricket Club. In 1864 the Manchester Cricket Club became the Lancashire County Cricket Club playing unofficial county games until the official county championship started in 1890. The ground actually isn’t the oldest in the county. That honour goes to Aigburth Cricket Ground the home of the Liverpool Cricket Club. Cricket has been played at Aigburth since 1807, and has hosted 192 first class matches.
After Aigburth the next most popular ground for first class matches is Stanley Park, the home of Blackpool Cricket Club. The ground was first used for cricket in 1893 and has hosted 98 first class games with 5000 seats available for spectators.
Old Trafford has hosted 74 test matches and despite being the wettest venue it has the reputation of producing the fastest wickets in the country, that take spin late in the game. During the Second World War the game was used as a transit camp for troops returning from Dunkirk, and the stands were badly damaged when the ground was bombed by German planes.
In 1902 the Test Match between England and Australia produce the third ever closest result, as Australia won by 3 runs. The game was also made remarkable as the Australian captain, Victor Trumper, scored a century before lunch on the first day.
After the war cricket’s popularity increased as spectators were attracted to cricket grounds up and down the country. The ground has produced some remarkable individual performances over the years and in 1956 Jim Laker became the first bowler to ever take 10 wickets in a test innings. His match figures of 19 wickets for 90 runs are yet to be surpassed in Test Cricket.
In 1981 Ian Botham scored a remarkable 118 against the Australians which included 6 sixes in an Ashes series that England were to win in spectacular style. In 1990 Sachin Tendulkar scored a century for India against England at the age of 17, and in 1993 the Australian Shane Warne delivered the “Ball of the Century” to dismiss the England captain Mike Gatting.
However, as time progressed it was clear that if the ground was going to be used for future Test Match Cricket much redevelopment was needed. New grounds around the country in Cardiff, Southampton and Durham were being built and the facilities in Manchester were being seen as outdated.
In 2003 work started on the ground that has now produced a modern stadium with conference, retail and hotel facilities within the arena. One of the biggest changes has been to change the wickets from an east-west alignment to a more traditional north-south direction. The ground-staff now have a bigger area to work with 16 separate wickets now becoming available. The falling sun no longer interferes with the cricket at the end of the day’s play.
The ground now has a seated capacity of 26,000 for international matches and host both one day and 5-day games. It is a multi-purpose arena with music concerts also being hosted which can hold 50,000 spectators and its future for Test cricket is now virtually assured.