Pitch report – Old Trafford

England

We run the rule over the venue for the fourth Test between England and India in Manchester this week.

<b>Established:</b> 1857<br><b>Capacity:</b> 25,000<br><b>Floodlights:</b> No<br><B>Ends:</b> Stretford End, Brian Statham End<br><b>Home Team:</b> Lancashire<br><b>Test History:</b> 75 Tests; 25 home wins, 14 away wins, 36 draws<br><b>Last 10 Tests:</b> 6 home wins, 1 away win, 3 draws<br><b>Last 10 Tosses:</b> 10 batted first (7 wins, 3 draws)

<b>Overview</b><br>From Jim Laker's 19 for 90 against the Aussies and Dominic Cork's sensational hat-trick against the Windies to Shane Warne's so-called 'Ball of the Century' to Mike Gatting, England's second-oldest Test ground has played host to many memorable occasions over its rich history – and often treated <a href='http://www.paddypower.com/bet/cricket' target='_blank' class='instorylink'><b>Paddy Power</b></a> punters very well.

The recipient of a major makeover, a move largely prompted by its failure to crack the nod ahead of Swalec Stadium, Cardiff for a 2009 Ashes clash, Old Trafford broke a three-year hiatus from Test cricket this time last year – and will continue its comeback this week.

The Manchester marvel has, indeed, undergone considerable transformation. An overhaul of the pitch, the erection of permanent floodlights, thousands more seats in state-of-the-art stands, upgraded media and player facilities and the standardisation of the ground's look and feel via matching scoreboard and video screens are just some of the highlights – impending and completed.

<b>Last Time Out</b><br>A big century from Michael Clarke justified Australia's decision to bat first in August last year. Kevin Pietersen replied with an attacking ton, before rain rendered the fixture a draw. Both teams were vindicated in choosing a specialist spinner, as the pitch proved to be far from the "concrete slab" expected by David Lloyd.

<b>They Said</b><br>"The pitch has been under cover for the last two days because of the rain we have had. Even during the T20 match played here on Saturday evening on an adjoining strip, I had the Test pitch covered with a coir mat. I've left it to breathe free since morning. I just hope we have enough sunshine to ensure the surface retains the right amount of moisture when play begins. It doesn't swing here much, especially after the new stands came up in 2010 and we changed the layout of the ground and relaid the square." – Old Trafford curator <b>Matt Merchant</b> this week.

"It's a proper Test match ground and it all fits in with the pitch being turned the other way around. I had a chat with the groundsman the other night and he says the five centre wickets are the old spec, just facing the other way. He has relaid the outer pitches, but those won't be used in Test matches. So expect the pitch to be like a concrete slab. It might have a bit of pace – I'd certainly expect it to have more pace than the previous two Tests – but it will spin." – former England batsman and coach-turned-television commentator <b>David Lloyd</b> last year.

<b>Happy Hunting Ground</b><br><b>Ian Bell</b> sports the best venue numbers of England's current crop, averaging a whopping 78.57 after 10 innings. These statistics, however, are largely inflated by a simple century against minnows Bangladesh in 2010. <b>Alastair Cook</b>, too, sports two centuries here.

<b>James Anderson</b> has been less than impressive at his home ground, securing a dozen wickets in four matches. A ground average of 35.33 is considerably higher than a career aggregate 30.09. India, understandably, don't have any survivors from 1990's Test match visit to Old Trafford. <b>Ajinkya Rahane</b>, however, struck a consoling half-century in T20I defeat here three years ago.

<b>Weather Forecast</b><br>Showers across the 48 hours prior to the toss are likely to hinder Merchant's preparations, but won't take change the dynamic of a pitch that has rung true throughout the season. Rain will threaten throughout the five days, with temperatures likely to hang in the early-20s degrees Celsius.

<b>Conclusion</b><br>Relatively docile conditions – and plenty of inclement weather – have turned Old Trafford into a draw-heavy ground. Almost half of the venue's 75 Tests have brought stalemates. Lancashire's 2014 County Championship Division One campaign hasn't proved any different on the back of three draws in four attempts.

Rain in the build-up to the fixture might be a blessing in disguise, as fans and entertainment would rather witness slightly under-prepared conditions than an over-manicured flatbed.

Not as green as Lord's but certainly more so than Trent Bridge, here's hoping Old Trafford finds a solid balance – like the Rose Bowl did a week ago. The amount of live grass Merchant leaves on the deck will be influential. He has suggested he'll err on the side of a shorter blade.

He expects the pitch to yield some lateral movement early – and consistent carry throughout. The spinners, characteristically, have a bigger say through the second half of the match. The swing of old, meanwhile, has all but been resigned to the past. Anderson's talk will beg to differ, but his walk might prove otherwise.

Batting first is certainly the norm, but overhead conditions and a relatively sweaty pitch could convince the toss-winning captain of the alternative on Thursday. So much so, India will toy with playing an additional seamer. This venue, meanwhile, is primed for a positive result for England in <a href='http://www.paddypower.com/bet/cricket/ashes-series-2013' target='_blank' class='instorylink'><b>betting for the 2015 Ashes</b></a>.

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