The two Old Traffords in Manchester will gear up for exciting events this weekend. Firstly, and probably the biggest, would be the homecoming of Cristiano Ronaldo on Saturday for Manchester United and the other would be the last Test between England and India that starts on Friday. With mouth-watering contests and tons of excitement, Manchester is certainly the place to be in England this weekend.
But. let's focus on cricket as the series is poised perfectly for India. They would be happy with a draw that will fetch them their fourth series win on English soil. But, knowing Virat Kohli, that wouldn’t be the approach from this pack of wolves led by a strong and determined alpha. However, they will be playing their last match of the series in a venue where they haven’t won historically. India have lost four matches and drawn five at Old Trafford.
The Old Trafford in recent times has been a mixed bag. There is a bit of help for the bowlers and with application, batsmen too have excelled, especially in the first innings. To be precise, this venue has been a wonderland for the teams batting first, which is a rare sight in non-Asian conditions. On average, teams have scored 435 runs in the first innings since 2015, which is the second-best for any venue in non-Asian conditions that has seen five-plus matches.
Better the conditions to bat, poorer the bowling strike rates and bowling average. Bowlers have picked up wickets at a strike rate of 85.5 and an average of 46.9 in Tests since 2015. Only two non-Asian venues have been poorer than Old Trafford for bowlers in the first innings. Sydney’s SCG (53.5 average at 95.1) and Melbourne’s MCG (48.7 average at 97.2) are the two. Hence, teams batting first have won five out of the six matches played since 2015. In the only loss, Pakistan had scored 326 and this is the only below 350 score.
THE SHIFT IN SUPREMACY
Similar to the Oval strip, Old Trafford’s characteristics change in the second innings. A batting paradise in the first innings turns into a complete potter’s field in the second. A regularity of 400 is a distant galaxy, the highest score itself is just 301 in the second innings. The average score in the second innings dips to 238, which is almost 197 runs dip and a 45 percent dip. The 45 percent dip is the second-highest for a venue that has seen 10+ innings.
This means, better bowling performances, and the supremacy shifts towards the bowlers. They have bagged wickets at a strike rate of 47.7 and an average of 22.9. The majority of those wickets have belonged to the pacers. In the aforementioned time, only in Johannesburg (38.7) and Port Elizabeth (42.2) have the strike rates been better than Old Trafford in non-Asian venues.
AN EXPECTATION OF A DRY PITCH?
Though it has been the pacers who have had the upper hand in Tests at Old Trafford, there is a ray of hope for the spinners. In the recently concluded 100 men’s competition, Old Trafford was the best pitch for spinners. In terms of economy or average or strike rate, the spinners were the best at Old Trafford with a strike rate of 16.7 and an average of 16.1 and conceded less than 6.
England have added Jack Leach into their squad, which could be a certain indication of the pitch being a dry one. This could be a sign that Ravichandran Ashwin could pair with Ravindra Jadeja in the last Test, if it happens that is!