The growth of Old Trafford continued alongside the success of the team on the field as the Lancashire side became one of the foremost sides in the country. In 1884 Old Trafford became the second ground after the Oval to stage Test cricket in England.
Rain lashed down on the first day and the match against Australia was drawn. Over 12,000 attended on the second day. Old Trafford with its stands, a ladies tea-room and Pavilion was regarded as second only to Lord's.
In 1884 an unfortunate disagreement concerning the fairness of certain bowlers resulted in a breach with Nottinghamshire who refused to play Lancashire. Kent also objected to the inclusion of Crossland and Nash in the Lancashire side to play them. Lancashire performed only modestly in the 1880's, and although they finished third in 1884 they were a long way behind Nottinghamshire, the great team of the period.
In 1885 the 19-year-old George Kemp, who was to later to become an MP, scored the first century for Lancashire in a Roses match. Also, Briggs and Pilling put on the record last wicket stand of 173 against Surrey at Liverpool.
1889 saw the re-emergence of Lancashire who shared the championship with Surrey and Notts, but many people felt they had begun to rely too much on players born outside the county. Three players recruited during the season, Arthur Paul, Arthur Mold and Albert Ward who were all to play a significant part in the future of Lancashire cricket were all born outside the county.
In 1890 one A.C.MacLaren, who was still a schoolboy and captain of Harrow, made his Lancashire debut scoring a century against Sussex at Hove. Following on from A.N.Hornby he too was going to have a profound effect on Lancashire cricket as well as captaining England.
Not a ball was bowled in the 1890 Old Trafford Test Match with R.G.Barlow observing "that much of this disappointment might have been avoided if my patent wicket protector had been used".
Lancashire were runners-up in 1890 and 1891 and A.N.Hornby announced his 'partial retirement' which meant him sharing the captaincy for two seasons, something which didn't work out too well.
Interest in cricket continued to grow. The Bank Holiday Roses match was described by Wisden "as having been played in the presence of the largest number of people ever assembled on the ground." In 1894 A.C.Maclaren took over the captaincy and A.N.Hornby became President, something which didn't stop him playing or even captaining the side in later seasons!
Johnny Briggs, still only 32 and yet with 15 seasons service to the club, was given the Roses match for his benefit. Lord Hawke objected to the pitch because it had been covered (for the benefit) and another one had to be cut. Lancashire lost inside two days. Somerset - for the second time in the history of their matches with Lancashire - were beaten inside one day with Arthur Mold taking 13 wickets including the hat-trick.
In 1895 A.C.MacLaren made his monumental innings of 424 against Somerset at Taunton (still the record individual score for Lancashire) beating W.G.Grace's 344. Lancashire again were runners-up with Mold taking 192 wickets. Lancashire built a new Pavilion costing £10,000 which was opened during the season. It was designed by Thomas Muirhead who also designed the one at the Oval
In 1897 Briggs, Cuttall, Mold and Hallam were a formidable quartet, taking 420 wickets between them, MacLaren was in great form and Lancashire won the championship, although hotly chased by Surrey. A.N. Hornby, the President, took over the regular captaincy at the age of 50. When Sussex played at Old Trafford 15,000 spectators turned up on the final day to watch 'Ranji' , "the prince of batsmen" only to see him out first ball for a duck. He returned to the pavilion laughing at the scene and the crowd laughed with him - before going home.
In 1898 Lancashire made the bold decision to buy the Old Trafford ground and some adjoining land from the de Trafford's for £24,732. It was a big step, but one which in later years was to secure the prosperity and future of the club.
In 1899 Lancashire finished fourth with the season seeing the debuts of two great batsmen R.H.Spooner and J.R.Sharp. Illness robbed the county of the services of Hallam and Johnny Briggs who suffered a seizure after the Test Match at Leeds and had to be confined to a mental home. He returned to the county side most successfully in 1900, but his illness recurred in 1901 and he returned to Cheadle Asylum where he died aged 39 and all Lancashire mourned. Briggs's universal popularity was reflected with his funeral at Stretford attended by over 4,000 people.
In 1902 a historic step was taken at Old Trafford with the amateurs and professionals walking out on the field side by side. Before they used to walk to the wicket through different gates. A newspaper report observed "As the players went to the wicket there was an outbreak of cheering - the citadel of conservatism had at last been stormed!". In the same year Victor Trumper scored a century before lunch in the Old Trafford Test Match for Australia as England lost by 3 runs after requiring seven to win with two wickets remaining, Fred Tate coming in and hitting a four and then being bowled.
Sydney Barnes had his most successful season in 1903 taking 131 wickets at 17 each before announcing his premature retirement from county cricket to play in the leagues.
Lancashire continued to be amongst the elite in the County Championship and 1904 saw them champions again being undefeated. Wisden described the season as "the brightest in the history of Lancashire cricket". They were led by Archie MacLaren and with J.T.Tyldesley scoring 2,237 runs backed up by a number of stylish amateurs James Hallows did the double of 1,000 runs and 100 wickets, but of uncertain health he was to die only six years later.
A tremendous future was predicted for a young Ralph Whitehead who on his debut in 1908 scored 131 and was also no-balled for throwing!
The wickets at Old Trafford were said to be fast and dangerous and had to be improved. Fred Reynolds extraordinary career came to an end when he retired as Ground Manager after more than 48 years with the club. Lancashire were runners-up to Kent in 1909, Brearley, Huddleston and Dean all bowling well. Problems with finance were beginning to appear but strangely there was no suggestion to review members subscriptions or gate charges which had not changed since 1864.
There was memorable season in 1910 which saw some very exciting matches and the county finished fourth; they would have been second but for a new scoring system which they themselves proposed! Against Notts at Old Trafford Lancashire scored 403 in the fourth innings in only 5 1/4 hours to win the match. Lancashire broke this record by one run later in the season against Hampshire.
There were to be no more titles before the First World War and by 1913 the club had sunk to eighth position while off the field there was concern at the club's financial state. The attraction of other sports and entertainments were blamed on a decline in gates. In 1914 things got worse with the captain A.H.Hornby criticising the committee and on the field Lancashire finishing in their lowest position of 11th. Towards the end of the season, when war had been declared the pavilion was put at the service of the Red Cross and during the course of the war over 1,800 patients were treated there.