MM’s top five… Batting performances at Old Trafford

Old Trafford has played host to some remarkable cricketing moments: from nail-biting Test matches to frenetic Twenty20s, the famous ground has seen sixes, hat-tricks and centuries galore in its 157-year history.

It most recently played host to the third Ashes Test, where Kevin Pietersen scored a century and helped set up England’s 3-0 Ashes victory.

How times have changed.

Ahead of the beginning of the cricket season, MM looks at the greatest innings at Old Trafford over the years.

5: Steve Waugh, 108 and 116 v England, 1997

England were, for once, on top of the Australians – the tourists headed into the third Test 1-0 down after England’s victory at Edgbaston. It was a slow pitch and the batsmen struggled, with only five players making a half-century. Steve Waugh was one of them.

Waugh’s century in the first innings rescued Australia when they were rocking at 85-4. England struggled against spin – some things never change – before Waugh’s second century ground England into the dirt. Australia went on to regain the Ashes.

4: Sachin Tendulkar, 119* v England, 1990

It was the innings that created a superstar who would dominate world cricket and inspire devotion in hundreds of fans.

Tendulkar was just 17 when he strode to the crease to rescue India after they collapsed to 109-4 after Graham Gooch had set them 408 to win.

 His century showed hints of what would become the classic Tendulkar: he was patient, swaying away from the bouncers and unfurling an elegant cover drive.

The match petered into a draw, although England should have won, and a genuine cricketing legend was born.

3: Ian Botham 118 v Australia, 1981

1981 was Botham’s year. The amazing comeback at Headingley, where England looked sure to lose, caused the series to be nicknamed Botham’s Ashes.

England were 2-1 up when they arrived in Manchester but had to face the wrath of a thoroughly fired up Dennis Lillee.

After a first-ball duck in the first innings, Botham’s counter-attacking 118 came from 123 balls and including 13 boundaries and six sixes. It was a masterclass in aggression.

No matter how hard Lillee came at him, Botham stood his ground and gave as good as he got. England won the Ashes, something that had seemed impossible two weeks earlier.

2: Michael Vaughan, 166 and Ricky Ponting, 156, England v Australia, 2005

2005 remains the most exciting summer of cricket for a generation of fans. It was, simply put, amazing: England were on top of a team that had spent years embarrassing them.

Shane Warne was being dispatched for six by a man with a badger stripe in his hair, Adam Gilchrist couldn’t buy a run and Matthew Hayden had lost all form.

Vaughan came into the innings at Old Trafford under some pressure. Despite an awkward start he grew in confidence, becoming the first man in the series to score a century and helped England post an intimidating 444.

Australia struggled but Ponting’s commanding century saved the game for them. He played with a freedom and an aggression that had been missing in his previous innings.

Australia saved the test, escaping with a draw, but England won the series.

1: Neil Fairbrother, 366 v Surrey, 1990

The scorecard for Lancashire v Surrey is a bizarre read. Surrey posted 707-9 in their first innings before Lancashire responded with 863.

His triple century came from just 407 balls. He scored 311 runs in a single day, scoring a record of at least 100 runs in each session.

It was a welcome result for a man whose Test debut had ended in disaster – playing against Pakistan at Old Trafford he made a four-ball duck and only scored five runs in his first three tests.

The game against Surrey boarded on farcical as neither side gave themselves a chance of winning, but Fairbrother’s innings is one of the greatest domestic performances in English county cricket.

Main image courtesy of Official England Cricket via YouTube, with thanks.

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