There will be a celebratory mood at the last game of England’s one-day series against Sri Lanka at Old Trafford on July 9, even if in the meantime Alastair Cook and Co are crushed again in the fourth of five internationals at Trent Bridge.
The humiliating defeat that Derwent Holdings suffered in their bid to thwart Lancashire’s plans to redevelop their historic ground at the Court of Appeal on Monday surely represents the end of the road even for Albert Gubay, and cricket lovers in the North-West can now watch the England-Sri Lanka game in the knowledge that there should be plenty more internationals at a state-of-the-art Old Trafford stadium in future years, rather than worrying that it could have been the end of the road.
Old Trafford is already looking significantly different, with the controversial design of The Point stimulating plenty of debate last year, and now a change in the orientation of the square, and the erection of four floodlights, sure to provoke more discussion when the national media visit the ground en masse for the first time in 2011.
The floodlights really are striking, making the cricket ground more visible than the other Old Trafford in the Manchester skyline, although they won’t be used on July 9 when the game will begin at 10.45am.
The next phase in the £32m development is the construction of a new building for players and media on the site of the double-decker Washbrook-Statham Stand opposite the pavilion – which is now behind the arm, as a result of the 90 degree rotation of the square.
Other significant milestones will be the likely renaming of the ground to include a sponsor, to help make up the shortfall in funding caused by all the legal delays, and less evocatively the construction of the new Tesco superstore between the two Old Traffords that will provide the lion’s share of the cash, and has also caused the majority of the problems.
But the really big decision will come in September, when Lancashire discover whether Ashes cricket will return to Old Trafford in 2013. Before then they also stage a Twenty20 international against India on August 31 that is already a guaranteed sell-out.
“We can’t really start constructing until after the August 31 game because the ground would be a building site,” said Jim Cumbes, the long-serving chief executive for whom the latest legal victory represented another personal triumph – as well as a major relief.
“We’ve been getting ready for things to start, and I think the contractors will probably be appointed within a week. Then everybody will be ready and we can press a button and off we go. Tesco are going to buy the land and transfer the money, but all that kind of thing was ready to go once we got the right decision.”
But is this really it? Cumbes has celebrated at least twice before, outside Trafford Town Hall last March when planning permission was first granted, and after Derwent’s first appeal was rejected by a Manchester High Court judge a couple of months ago.
He is therefore understandably anxious to tempt fate, but provided a reassuring message to Lancashire fans. “Our own QC said ‘they dismissed all points of law, and you can just get on with it’. They’ve also refused them the right to appeal as well. They could conceivably try the House of Lords, but you can only do that on a point of law.”
Cumbes will enjoy himself at the Sri Lanka game whatever the result, and he won’t be the only one.