Laker, Botham and Warne take centre stage in top Ashes encounters at Old Trafford

THIS time around, Old Trafford is the nearest venue for cricket supporters from Yorkshire who may have been lucky enough to acquire a ticket for one of the five Ashes Test matches.

Australia's Brett Lee and Glenn McGrath celebrate after saving the third npower Test match against England during the final day at Old Trafford Cricket Ground, Manchester, in 2005. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture: Martin Rickett/PA.

With action due to get underway in Manchester on Thursday, we look back at five outstanding post-war Ashes encounters staged there:

1 1956, England (459) beat Australia (84 & 205) by an innings and 170 runs.

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JIM Laker broke several bowling records during the 1956 encounter – not surprising considering his match figures of 19-90, although due to bad weather, victory was only sealed after tea on day five.

After England had amassed 459 thanks to opener Peter Richardson (104) and the Rev David Sheppard (113), Laker’s first telling blow saw him remove Colin McDonald with Australia on 48-0.

Tony Lock “denied” Laker a full house in the first innings, bowling Neil Harvey, with Laker taking the last seven wickets for eight runs in just 22 balls as Australia were skittled out for 84 in 40.4 overs.

The two days of rain looked to have saved Australia, until the skies cleared on the Tuesday. When tea was taken, England still required four wickets. The obdurate McDonald (89) succumbed after more than five hours, allowing Laker to clean up and take all 10 wickets, the second time that year he had achieved the feat against Australia after taking 10-88 for Surrey in a tour match.

2 1961, Australia (190 & 432) beat England (367 & 201) by 54 runs.

FIVE years later, Australia gained revenge in a Test regarded as the best in a series they won 2-1.

Bill Lawry’s 74 aside, the rest of the Australian batting disappointed as they were all out for 190 just before lunch on the second day.

After losing two cheap wickets, opener Geoff Pullar (63) took England to 154-2 with captain Peter May (95). Ken Barrington (78) also impressed as England reached 367, a lead of 177.

Under pressure, the Australians hit back admirably, Lawry’s patient four-and-a-half-hour 102 the chief contribution seeing them to 432, leaving the hosts an imposing final-day target of 256 with nearly four hours remaining.

With Ted Dexter (76) in fine form, England were on target for victory at 150-1, but his dismissal changed the complexion of the match, Richie Benaud taking 6-70 as England’s last eight wickets went for just 58 runs – the last falling with only 20 minutes left.

3 1981, England (231 & 404) beat Australia (130 & 402) by 103 runs.

THE third successive Test in which Ian Botham played a pivotal role, it was more heroics with the bat that crucially swung momentum England’s way on the Saturday, as he scored 118 off 102 balls in just under two hours.

Before Botham strode to the wicket, Australia were in the ascendancy with England only 205 runs ahead with five wickets down in their second innings.

Given a day-and-a-half to chase 505, the Australians, at times, looked as if they might pull it off, particularly when they were 198-3 towards the end of the fourth day with Graham Yallop (114) and Allan Border at the crease. But Yallop was bowled by John Emburey and, although Rodney Marsh and Dennis Lillee provided support on the final day, Border (123no) ran out of partners as his side fell 103 runs short.

4 1993, Australia (289 & 432) beat England (210 & 332) by 179 runs.

UNUSUALLY, the encounter at Old Trafford opened the 1993 series, Australia taking a 1-0 lead with only 9.3 overs to spare.

It is a match which will be forever remembered for “that” ball from Shane Warne, his first delivery in an Ashes contest pitching outside leg stump and hitting the top of Mike Gatting’s off stump, leaving England’s No 3 bewildered.

England were only 79 adrift of Australia after the first innings had been completed. But consistent batting from Australia – most notably David Boon with 93 – took the game away from the hosts, who were set 511 to win.

Graham Gooch took five hours to score 133, but there were few contributions from anyone else, the result setting the tone for a series which Australia won 4-1.

5 2005, England (444 & 280-6 dec) drew with Australia (302 & 371-9).

ARRIVING for the third Ashes Test at Manchester with the series squared at 1-1, it was always going to be difficult for the two sides to match the thrills of the previous Test at Edgbaston when England prevailed by two runs. But they came very close.

After being set 423 to win, Australia closed the fourth day on 24-0. With a cracking final day’s play anticipated, 10,000 people had to be turned away from Old Trafford on the final morning.

Australia avoided defeat by one wicket thanks mainly to under-pressure captain Ricky Ponting, who batted for almost seven hours for his 156.

But, when he was ninth out, with four overs still left, he thought he had handed victory to England. Brett Lee – so nearly the hero at Edgbaston – defied expectations, however, along with Glenn McGrath to produce the first drawn match in 17 Ashes Tests.