Pitch turned around
The Old Trafford Cricket Ground, home to the Lancashire County Cricket, has a habit of sitting on history, making history and turning heads with unmatched milestones over the decades. As great moments go, the turning of the pitch 90 degrees came in as a mega project approved by the Government in 2010 to keep the old man in the international books. So the pitch we have now was turned from its original East-West layout to North-South, mostly to guard against not the infamous Manchester drizzle but the low sun which made it dangerous for batsmen if the bowler was running in with the late afternoon sun behind him. Perhaps, this is the only ground in the world where “good light stopping play” was a worrying phenomenon. But that has since changed and what we have now is a 23500-strong expanded, modernised and spruced up facility which is one of the most ancient and yet the most modern in England. It is one of the sport’s most enduring mysteries why a pitch would, at all, be laid in an East-West direction. Cricket pitches, much like tennis courts, must run north/south to minimise the risk of batsmen or bowlers facing a low sun.
Maiden Sachin moment
The big India moments have been more than one on this ground, what with the maestro Sachin Tendulkar, at a tender and winsome 17, cracking his maiden Test century for the world to get up and applaud. He made an unbeaten 119 off 189 balls against England in a match that was drawn. He was the third youngest batsman ever to score a Test century against England at the Old Trafford. Batting first, England posted 519 on board with Graham Gooch, Michael Atherton and Robin Smith scoring centuries. In reply, India managed 432 with skipper Mohammad Azharuddin leading the charge with a 179, supported by 17-year-old Tendulkar who scored 68. Allan Lamb 's century in England's second innings helped the hosts put up 320 runs, and India were battling to save the match when Dilip Vengsarkar was sent back by Christopher Lewis for Tendulkar to come in. Azhar departed in quick succession, but Tendulkar battled on in the harsh English conditions for 225 minutes and saved the Test match with his unbeaten ton helping India to 343/6. After the match England skipper Graham Gooch said: "Tendulkar played an excellent innings. He is a superb player for his age, just like an old pro".
Ball of the century
That Ball’ has 1.1 crore views on You Tube! Termed as the “Ball of the Century” this leg break beauty by Shane Warne was bowled to England’s Mike Gatting on none other than the Old Trafford east-west pitch in 1993. It turned as never before or afterwards till now 26 years hence and analyses are still rife on how the then young Warne could have managed the impossible turn. The ball pitched way outside leg stump and as a contemptuous Gatting moved his bat in defence to chide it away, it drifted first to the middle and then on to the off-stump getting the bails up in air even as Gatting gave a long stunned look first to the pitch and then to the umpire who was as shocked as perhaps even the young blond boy from Down Under who became an instant celebrity that summer day of Ashes. This ball happened in the days of blistering pace, when spin bowlers were looked down upon. But it not only opened the world to the power and subtlety of spin bowling but also went down in history as the most analysed moment in cricket. During the Old Trafford Test of the 2005 Ashes series, the long-retired Gatting re-created this Ball of the Century with an automated bowling machine programmed to deliver leg spin. In 2009, the Irish chamber pop group The Duckworth Lewis Method wrote a song called "Jiggery Pokery" about this incident. Warne and others still talk about this ball of his opening over of Day 2 at Old Trafford which eventually led to Australia winning the Test.
More with Jimmy & Viv
Then there are many more. Like Viv Richards’ blistering 189 against England in a 1984 ODI, a personal score that was so unheard of in the game. Closer heart and home, like Mohinder Amarnath’s all-round excellence which stunned hosts England and helped India to a six-wicket victory in the 1983 World Cup. India eventually went on to beat mighty carriers of the game the West Indies to lift the World Cup trophy at Lord’s. And last but not the least, Jim Laker taking all 10 wickets in an innings destroying Australian defence and spirit way back in 1956, going on to take 19 wickets in that memorable match.