Somewhere, as the years went by, Old Trafford lost its way.
From being one of the greatest cricket grounds it became a world-weary tip, a monument to the Victorians whose vision created it and testimony to the fact that their descendants were frittering away the legacy. The only saving grace, as ill-advised piecemeal development has followed another makeshift stand, has been the red-brick pavilion. Erected in 1895, bombed in 1940 and rebuilt, it allowed Old Trafford to retain a semblance of dignity: an old dowager living in rags but clinging on to her priceless pearls.
So to the present refurbishment. At last there is a plan, based both on commercial needs and what a ground should look like in the 21st century. The first impression of the glass-fronted, utilitarian structure called The Point, the first building in the world to have contracted scarlet fever, is that the architects did it for a bet. Whatever Lancashire deserved after years of neglect, it was not this. Added to the fact that the county's financial results were released on the first day of the Second Test – an annual loss of £546,000 – it seemed a gloomy outlook. However, Jim Cumbes, the permanently sunny chief executive, said that The Point would grow on people. What, like a spot on an adolescent's chin? But a second view of the structure on Friday and a third yesterday made it seem much more appealing.
Although it currently puts the splendid pavilion in the shade, that might be ameliorated by adding a foot or two to the older building. Lancashire are about £800,000 in the red and the bleak financial state of Old Trafford reflects that of English cricket at the big grounds. The Point is that we had all better hope the present plan succeeds.
Turning it square
Part of the changed ground is vastly significant. The square is to be turned round so that the wicket will run from north to south. This means that the revamped pavilion will be behind the wicket rather than square to it. (It just shows that the Victorians were hardly perfect if they thought placing the members' pavilion at mid-wicket was acceptable). Apparently, this procedure is more straightforward than it sounds, and should also end the hazard of the setting sun shining into batsmen's eyes. But there will be the problem of what to call the ends. They are at present the Stretford End and the Brian Statham End, which took over from the Warwick Road End a while back. One, obviously, for the first time can be called the Pavilion End. It would be wonderful if Statham could still be enshrined in this way, but of course he never bowled from there because it was not an end then. Perhaps his boundary fielding at deep mid-wicket might count.
Swann's grand gesture
A lovely touch by man of the moment Graeme Swann to donate his £2,000 prize for winning another player-of-the-year award to the Lowe's Syndrome Trust. The illness is a rare genetic disorder which causes mental and physical disability and was first isolated by a team led by Dr Charles Lowe. Swann is a supporter of the trust, because his brother-in-law suffers from the condition. His prize was for being England's most valuable player under the Professional Cricketers' Association's points system.
KP stat doesn't count
Benedict Bermange, Sky's superb statistician, points out that Kevin Pietersen has now equalled Robin Smith's record of 62 Test appearances as a Hampshire player. Pietersen has played one first-class match for Hampshire since joining the county in 2005; Smith played 307.