It’s every cricket lover’s fantasy. Summoned from work to represent your county at one of England’s most famous Test match grounds, you play a key role in a famous victory.
It happened to Peter Pickering back in 1953. The 27-year-old Yorkshireman – a handy cricketer although better known as a professional footballer who kept goal for both the Poppies and the Cobblers in his time – was summoned to the office at British Timken one morning, given the keys to a car and told to head for Manchester to make his first-class debut for Northamptonshire.
Pickering earned his unlikely call-up because the County had only ten fit players. He arrived at lunchtime on the first day and it was clear the bowlers were holding sway on a difficult pitch. Northamptonshire were eventually left to score 128 for victory and collapsed to 40-5 before Pickering hit a vital 37, setting the stage for a one-wicket win. It was the County’s first Championship triumph at Old Trafford at the 22nd attempt!
Although not exactly a happy hunting ground even after ‘Pickering’s Match’, there have been some outstanding performances at Lancashire’s headquarters. In the opening Championship fixture of 1976 David Steele’s masterly 93 – plus 13 wickets in the match for pace bowler Bob Cottam – set up a 116-run victory at the start of a memorable season that saw Mushtaq Mohammad’s team finish second in the table.
The County had won there in 1965 – and also went on to claim runners-up spot. On that occasion it was off-spinner Haydn Sully who did the damage with 6-20 in the first innings and 5-67 in the second.
Kevin Curran – father of Ben – hammered a century there in the 1997 drawn game, and two years later the illustrious trio of Devon Malcolm, Paul Taylor and Graeme Swann shared nine wickets as Lancashire, set 311 to win by Matthew Hayden, slumped to 121 all out.
But bad memories of past drubbings in Manchester came back to haunt Northamptonshire in 2013 – skittled for 62 on the first morning and beaten inside two days on a pitch that sparked a major controversy – and 2014, when Ashwell Prince’s undefeated 257 set the hosts on course for victory by an innings and 200 runs.
It’s also worth noting that the County played their final Championship match of the 1914 season at Old Trafford. When Lancashire batted opener William Tyldesley was caught by Don Denton off fellow Wellingborough School pupil Tommy Askham for 92. Batsman and bowler would both die in the First World War while the catcher lost part of a leg. Tyldesley’s opening partner Harold Garnett was killed too.
NORTHAMPTONSHIRE V LANCASHIRE – OVERALL CHAMPIONSHIP RECORD
NORTHAMPTONSHIRE WINS: 18
LANCASHIRE WINS: 52
LAST TIME OUT…
Ben Duckett starred with the bat in Northamptonshire’s most recent Championship visit to Old Trafford in 2015, scoring a classy 134. Adam Rossington weighed in with 89 and the County were strong favourites to win until rain stopped play on the final day with Lancashire seven wickets down.