A happy venue for Vaughan and Harmison
Already down 1-0 in the four-Test series after being at the receiving end of a drubbing at Headingley, West Indies need to avoid a defeat to stay in the series, and among all the venues in England, Old Trafford probably provides them the best chance of at least coming away with a draw. In 71 Tests here since 1884, 34 have ended in a stalemate - that's a whopping 47%, the highest among all Test venues in England. The catch, though, is that most of those stalemates have happened later in the season, in July and August: as the summary of results indicates, only three out of 13 Tests in May and June have ended in draws, but that number has gone up to 31 out of 56 in July and August, when the sun comes out and conditions usually become much better for batting.
|Old Trafford, Manchester||71||34||47|
|Trent Bridge, Nottingham||53||22||41|
|The Oval, London||89||35||39|
Winning the toss and batting first is the norm here - in 71 Tests only eight times has the opposition been put in. Seven of those eight games ended in stalemates, while Graham Gooch was made to rue that decision against Australia in the first Test of the 1993 Ashes, as England were thumped by 179 runs. And here's further proof that batting first is the way to go at Old Trafford: 25 of the 37 decisive Tests here have been won by the team taking first strike.
For a West Indian bowling attack which has struggled to make any sort of an impression in the two Tests so far, the next set of stats won't be encouraging: most of England's top order have all been among the runs here. Michael Vaughan, their captain, leads the way, with two centuries in five Tests and an excellent average of 56. Andrew Strauss isn't far behind, with 256 runs at an average of 51.20, while Ian Bell has a lowest score of 59 in three innings and Alastair Cook tucked into a century in his only innings here. The exception to the rule is Kevin Pietersen, who has a highest of 38 in three innings, including a duck. Given his form in the current series, though - 361 runs at 120.33 - it'll take a brave man to bet against him breaking that lean trot at Old Trafford.
Among the England bowlers, both Steve Harmison and Monty Panesar will have pleasant memories of the venue: Harmison has 18 wickets from three Tests, including 11 in his previous one against Pakistan last year, while Panesar took eight in that game, which England won by an innings and 120 runs.
Old Trafford was the venue where Jim Laker achieved that famous ten in an innings and 19 in a match - against the Australians in 1956 - but more recently spinners have struggled there, taking their wickets at an average of more than 40 over the last decade. Fast bowlers, on the other hand, average less than 33 per wicket.
West Indies' successes here have been fashioned by fast bowling - in fact, their last triumph here, in 1988, came on the back of an exceptional spell by Malcolm Marshall, who destroyed England with a spell of 7 for 22. Since then, though, England versus West Indies at Old Trafford has largely been one-way traffic.
S Rajesh is stats editor of Cricinfo.