With Ashes 2019 taking a riveting curve after the Headlingley Test, the action now shifts to Old Trafford, Manchester in what is a crucial game for both sides. England need a win to have a chance of regaining the urn, however, if Australia win, the final Test at The Oval, will be a mere formality as far as The Ashes in concerned.
There haven’t been many Tests played at Old Trafford in the last five years or so, but it has been witness to some great performances – just five Tests since 2010. In fact the last Test to be played at the venue was in 2017 – which England won by 177 runs.
When we talk about Old Trafford, we cannot overlook Jim Laker’s 19 wickets in a match, which included all 10 wickets in the second innings and thereby becoming the first bowler to achieve this feat. This was a crucial performance for England as they managed to take the lead in the series and then went on to win the match. Till that match, Laker had picked up 106 wickets from 27 Tests at 25.09, but little did he know that he would jump from 106 to 125 wickets in just one match. Until that game, he had just eight wickets at Old Trafford, but ended up with 27 five days later, which then was the most wickets for him at a single venue.
Picking up 10 wickets in an innings was not something new for Laker. Just a couple of months before his heroics at Old Trafford, Laker bowled unchanged for 46 overs against the visiting Australian side in a tour match at The Oval and finished with figures of 10 for 88. History would repeat itself just a couple of months later – this time at Old Trafford in an Ashes Test.
Another player who dominated at Manchester was fast bowler Alec Bedser. He has 51 wickets at Old Trafford, well ahead of James Anderson in second place with 28 scalps. Two out his five 7-wicket hauls came at this venue. Bedser’s strength was the in-swinger and also bowled the leg-cutters – a quick ball that whizzed past the batsman – similar to that off a fast leg-spin.
Bedser played his first First-Class match in 1939 and had to wait seven seasons before playing his second. After playing just 12 First-Class matches, he was drafted in the England team and made his debut against India in 1946 and went on to become one of the integral part of the team. He played his second Test at Old Trafford and in the fourth innings, picked up seven wickets back-to-back, but that was not enough as the final wicket pair managed to etch out a draw.
In his 14 innings at Old Trafford, he went wicket-less just once. His bowling average of 13.45 and strike-rate of 35.6 was his best among the 15 venues he has played in.