Former Australia captain and legendary TV commentator Richie Benaud recalls some of his favourite Old Trafford memories.
Old Trafford has never been short of excitement and tension for visiting Australians and I was lucky enough to play two Tests there and was 12th man for Australia in the match in 1953. This was an extraordinary game with Lindsay Hassett's team, on a rain-affected surface, 32-8 in their second innings. At The Oval England regained the Ashes after a 19-year gap.
1956 will forever be known as 'Laker's Match.' The great off-spinner took nineteen wickets and, astonishingly, only one fell to Tony Lock who earlier in the summer had taken all ten in an Australian innings when playing for Surrey at The Oval. Laker was simply superb in 1956. Australia's batsmen capitulated in the first innings when the pitch was dry and dusty, then fought hard but to no avail on the last day when showers and sunshine turned it into England's version of a 'sticky.'
The happenings on the final day of the 1961 Test will always remain with me because England, with Ted Dexter batting magnificently, were surging to victory at 150-1, needing only another 106 with time to spare when I changed from over the wicket to around the wicket, landing the ball in the footmarks at the Warwick Road End. The 6-70 was not my best bowling figures, but were certainly my most memorable.
Just as memorable for me was Shane Warne's first ball in Test cricket in England in 1993 when he bowled Mike Gatting with the perfect delivery. Four years later Mark Taylor, in an inspired piece of captaincy, won the toss and batted on a green, damp Old Trafford pitch. This was to give Warne and Glenn McGrath the opportunity to bowl on the final day and, between them, the two great bowlers took 16 wickets in the match. Steve Waugh played two of the finest innings I've seen, 108 and 116, and the series was squared, then the Ashes retained in the following game at Headingley.
England regained the Ashes in 2005 and the Old Trafford Test was drawn, but it was one of the most exciting draws I have ever seen with McGrath and Brett Lee batting out the last 24 balls of the match. Wonderful tradition and cricket are part of the history of this ground and it has always been a privilege to be there, either as a player on three tours, or as a commentator.
Richie Benaud Pictures by: S&G/S&G and Barratts/EMPICS Sport & Sean Dempsey/PA Archive/Press Association Images
*Richie Benaud was kind enough to contribute this article to our 150th anniversary Old Trafford celebrations in 2007