Old Trafford returns to the Ashes rota in 2013 after being redeveloped and the wicket turned 90 degrees.
Manchester emerged during the industrial revolution as a powerhouse of the textile industry and, more recently, has been transformed into one of the country's leading lights for the arts, sport and media. The city was hit hard by the decline of manufacturing industry in Britain but the centre has gone through a successful regeneration after an IRA bomb in 1996 caused extensive damage. Think of Manchester and, for many, football will be the first thing that springs to mind thanks to the exploits of three-time European champions Manchester United and their local rivals Manchester City, who won the Premier League title in 2012 after the arrival of Sheikh Mansour as owner. The city also has a rich music tradition with bands such as the Stone Roses, Happy Mondays and Oasis earning global acclaim.
Old Trafford has undergone an extensive redevelopment since hosting its most recent Test, England's innings victory over Bangladesh in 2010. The biggest change has seen the wicket turned to face north-south in order to eliminate the problem of the sun rising and setting from behind the bowler's arm, which sometimes led to stoppages in play in the past. Some order has been also been brought to the previous mish-mash of buildings surrounding the playing area with the Washbrook-Statham stand demolished and replaced by a new pavilion and media facility, with two-tiered stands on either side. The Point, a conference centre that overlooks the ground, provides a distinctive look - it is red and has been compared to a giant postbox.
Prior to the decision to turn the wicket around, Old Trafford had a well deserved reputation for being the quickest pitch in England. It offered something for everyone; batsmen enjoyed the reliable bounce and gained full reward for attacking strokes, while bowlers of all types took advantage of the extra lift on offer. The move was made in the winter of 2010-11 and Lancashire played their Championship matches away from the ground in 2011 to allow the changes to bed.
Old Trafford was the scene of what remains the finest individual bowling performance in Test history, England spinner Jim Laker's 19 wickets in the 1956 Ashes Test. It was also the setting for Shane Warne's introduction to Ashes cricket when he bamboozled Mike Gatting with "the ball of the century", while back in 1948 Denis Compton returned to the crease after being felled by a Ray Lindwall bouncer to score 145 not out. The most recent Ashes Test at the ground in 2005 was a mini-classic, with England captain Michael Vaughan hitting 166 before Australia - inspired by Ricky Ponting's 156 - hung on for a draw with nine wickets down. There have been 29 Ashes Tests held at Old Trafford dating back to 1884. Australia have a good record at the venue overall with eight victories, compared to England's seven and 14 draws.