This is a big night for Lancashire, as they celebrate a successful end to the frustrating and worrying period of uncertainty over the redevelopment of Old Trafford. They are pulling out all the stops, with Mark Chapman of the BBC conducting a hat-trick of interviews on the pitch to underline the buzz that currently surrounds sport in Manchester.
With City and United joint top of the Premier League table, Mike Summerbee and Sir Bobby Charlton are both here – perhaps even MS Dhoni, a member of the Chennai branch of United’s infamously widespread supporters’ club who secured tickets for the other Old Trafford to watch last Sunday’s 8-2 demolition of Arsenal, might be a little starstruck by the presence of Charlton.
So too is James Anderson, in his ambassadorial role for Lancashire following his exclusion from England’s t20 team, and I’d guess he was banging the drum for the redeveloped ground to stage a Test in the next Ashes series in 2013 – although you couldn’t pick up his interview from the press box.
Another Lancashire legend, Mike Atherton, has just conducted the toss, and Dhoni won it to loud cheers from a fair Indian proportion of the sell-out crowd, choosing to bat.
There are new names on each team, with Alex Hales and Jos Buttler making their debuts for England, but no room for Ben Stokes – who will have to wait until Saturday’s 50-over match at his home ground in Durham, when Kevin Pietersen will not be competing for a place in the middle order.
India have Ajinkya Rahane, a 23-year-old Maharashtran with a first-class batting average of 67, making his international bow, and give a first t20 international appearance to a promising young batsman called Rahul Dravid.
It’s chilly and cloudy, but dry, and the new floodlights that were one of the first parts of the redevelopment to be built are shining bright in the south Manchester sky – surprisingly, they are now more visible on the skyline than the lights just up Brian Statham and Matt Busby Ways, at the other Old Trafford inhabited by Charlton and Dhoni’s beloved United.
England: Hales, Kieswetter, Pietersen, Morgan, Bopara, Patel, Buttler, Bresnan, Broad, Swann, Dernbach
India: P Patel, Rahane, Dravid, Kohli, Sharma, Raina, Dhoni, Kumar, Ashwin, Vinay Kumar, M Patel