Tom Cox achieves his Ashes dreams at Emirates Old Trafford
A day of test match cricket is a beautiful thing. The green of the grass, the whites of the uniforms, the gradual increase in raucousness as the excitement/refreshment intensifies. Sadly, the sight of a stand-wide beer snake is a thing of the past in these more eco-conscious days. But the move towards reusable glasses is a progressive step forward. And the whole set-up at Emirates Old Trafford is a shining example of the benefits of progress
The story of the room though has to be the view of the outfield...for the cricket fan this is a thing of real beauty
Emirates Old Trafford has been transformed since the Ashes triumph of 2005. Looking back to that time (extremely fondly, especially given this summer’s series) what is remarkable is how different the stadium looks. Back then, the press box looked like the swankiest part of the ground. In 2019 every other section of the stadium has been practically razed and rebuilt. The press area is next up for being brought into the 21st century.
All this reconstruction came at some cost, both to the club and Trafford council. However, given the dilapidated state of the ground ten years ago when Old Trafford lost Test Status and the associated financial benefits of hosting the England team most summers, the club had no alternative but to think differently about the stadium. The redevelopment has been an absolute triumph. The club now easily covers costs and makes an excellent profit from events and conferences at The Point and guests at the hotel. This money can then be reinvested into the cricket team bringing in hotshot overseas professionals such as Glenn ‘Glenda’ Maxwell.
Looking at this in the context of 2019 and what has happened to other local sports teams such as Bury and Bolton could provide a model for the future. Sports grounds need to find a way to be financially viable all year round. Match days can no longer provide the financial insurance for clubs to survive let alone thrive.
Granted Emirates Old Trafford is in a particularly good spot. The Point hosts pre-match hospitality for punters at the other Old Trafford a short walk up Sir Matt Busby way and the two clubs provide an interesting contrast in their approaches to ground development. The Hilton Garden Inn provides a good base for other Manchester tourists too. Being a stone’s throw from the Metrolink makes it just a few minutes from the city centre and free parking plus relative proximity to the M60 attracts guests too.
Getting the chance to watch a day’s play from the comfort of a room at the Hilton Garden Inn had previously been nothing but a dream. Wistfully, I had gazed up at the balconies on previous days at the cricket and tried to conceive of what it would be like to take in the play from such a vantage point. Checking in on the Friday night meant I could have the pleasure of dinner followed by waking up at the ground and getting a solid bit of brekko in to set me up for the day.
The Garden Grille dining room is very much in 'the business man on business' style but certainly not uncomfortable. The menu is very much a crowd-pleaser jumping from fish and chips, to chicken curry, to steak. It’s designed to cater for a wide range of people although the wellness crew might struggle to find something that meets their needs. The prawns were crisply battered in tempura and met the crunch test – no overcrowding or under-heated oil here. The steak was served medium rare as requested and was suitably pink and juicy. The bizarrely fish-shaped mushroom served alongside provided a great talking point. My ox cheek in red wine gravy was a meaty and savoury delight served alongside some suitably crunchy broccoli – my favourite vegetable which is frequently sinned against. This was a hearty, dare I say it, ‘blokey’ meal. Not terribly subtle but packed with flavour and solidly put-together standards.
A good night’s sleep was had in our twin room, which was comfortable and well-proportioned with all the expected facilities such as a mini-fridge and kettle – no biscuits though. The story of the room though has to be the view of the outfield. Just take a look at the pictures. For the cricket fan this is a thing of real beauty. Even for those who have no love for the one true beautiful game have to be impressed by this even if they prefer the sight of the Pennines looming in the distance or planes gently dropping out of the clouds on their descent to Manchester Airport.
The England team were batting at the close of play as well as the start. Unfortunately this was not a consequence of solid, grind-it-out test technique but due to Australia’s ruthless bowling and bish-bosh batting putting them in position to squeeze in an innings and the runs they needed to declare. Steve Smith managed a frankly disappointing for him 82. Stuart Broad's bowling was a rare high point for England but spectators couldn’t help wonder what might have happened had they the joy of seeing James Anderson bowling from his eponymous end. Still every day at the test is a great day - perhaps best not to mention the rainy gusts of earlier in the week.
I can’t think of a better way to watch cricket than from a balcony at Old Trafford. My long-planned cricket tour of the Caribbean is yet to be booked so until then this has to be the highlight of my cricket-watching life. My companion worried that watching cricket had been ‘ruined’ for him as he can never go back to the stands. I prefer to think that his cricket-watching experience has now evolved from discount pork pies and a meal deal to room service and stunning views. Now that truly is progress.
Fact file: Hilton Garden Inn Emirates Old Trafford
The Hilton Garden Inn is an award-winning four-star hotel, offering unique accommodation. Boasting 150 bedrooms, 80 of which are pitch-facing with balconies, the hotel provides stunning views over one of cricket’s best-known stadiums.
The official packages allowed guests to enjoy an unforgettable world-class event, without the worry of travel arrangements for each day, with three, four or six night stays available. Pitch-facing packages started from £2,699 per room for two people, offering the ultimate cricket experience. The breathtaking views allow guests to watch the action unfold from the comfort of their room with access to a private balcony and includes breakfast, a room service lunch, as well as a welcome drink on arrival.
It was announced in 2017 that Emirates Old Trafford was awarded a prestigious package of international fixtures, including an Ashes Test in 2023, as well as being selected as one of the host venues for the new eight team Hundred T20 Competition that starts in 2020.
It will see more than one million visitors to the ground over the course of 61 days of top-level cricket between the years 2020-24, of which the direct economic benefit to Manchester is estimated to be worth over £83 million.
Upcoming fixtures include:
- 2020: Pakistan Test Match and Australia International T20
- 2021: India Test Match and Pakistan International T20
- 2022: India International T20 and South Africa One-Day International
- 2023: Australia Test Match and International IT20 (opposition TBC)
- 2024: Test Match (opposition TBC) and International T20 (opposition TBC)
Book your stay at the Hilton Garden Inn Emirates Old Trafford