Inside the Old Trafford cricket ground hotel where rooms offer views of matches
"Testing 1,2,3,4... testing 1,2,3,4."
7.29am on Saturday and my morning alarm is a VERY loud one - a stadium announcer checking his equipment at full blast.
I’m lying in a very comfy bed at the Emirates Old Trafford cricket ground with a room boasting a view across the hallowed turf most fans of the game would give their off stump for.
But the small speaker on my balcony roof just a few yards away means I’ve got the full weight of the soundcheck and it’s time to get up.
It felt like being 13 again with my mum bellowing from the foot of my pit as I tried to sleep in beyond midday, again.
With just under four hours to go until the first ball is bowled preparations for the days play are already in full swing - even if I’m still wiping the sleep from my eyes.
From my fourth floor vantage point I can see right across the floodlit pitch on what is a cloudy and damp morning. Well, it is Manchester in early September.
The particularly cold-looking security team in their bright yellow jackets are huddled together in a lower tier opposite being given their briefing.
With the covers mostly off - well, all apart from mine - a groundsman is mowing the square, while another is re-painting the worn white lines of the batting creases.
Litter pickers are scouring the stands for anything missed on the previous nights searches.
Yes, the work at a cricket ground preparing for a big day of Ashes Test cricket gets going early - this was all happening before 8am!
Watching this glorious old ground ‘wake up’ - and feeling like I was the only one there apart from the staff - was fascinating but a hearty hotel breakfast was on offer and it was time to eat.
After a warm restaurant welcome and an espresso livener I went for a walk around the ground to soak up the atmosphere. The hotel is built into a corner of the stadium but you’re allowed out to take a wander once they’ve given you a wristband.
By 9am the expectant spectators are starting to arrive in their droves and the pre-game entertainment is boisterous.
Large queues are forming for artisan coffees; street performers catching the eye with cheeky acts; carpenters carving new cricket bats out of lumps of wood; and loudest of all an oompah band blasting out singalong favourites.
There’s something magical about the lead-up to a big Test match and each ground has it’s own personality. Lord’s is prim and proper, the Oval a big knees-up, Old Trafford is fun and very, very, noisy.
With just an hour until play starts England stars Jonny Bairstow and Ben Stokes walk past me and the hordes on their way to the outdoor nets.
Bairstow stops for a quick chat with an official to try and arrange a last-minute car parking space for a friend. Stokes is dressed for the autumnal weather in a woolly hat.
As the Australia team coach pulls into the ground behind me I’m able to peer through a fence to watch England coach Paul Collingwood give his players some throwdowns.
Getting this close to the players is wonderful and very much fits in with the relaxed charm of this family-friendly arena.
With a capacity of 26,000 - many in fancy dress (the Jack Leach appreciation group was my favourite) - the concourses are bustling so I head back to my room for a mid-morning caffeine hit.
I’m back on my balcony as the players make their way onto the pitch with my good friend the stadium announcer whipping up the atmosphere.
I’ve got one of the best views in the whole ground but I still flick on my telly, which is helpfully a few seconds behind the live action so I can watch every ball twice.
An admission: after about 20 minutes and with it still being a bit chilly I got back under the duvet and positioned myself so I could watch the game live and the TV at the same time.
The next hour was one of the greatest of my life and if England had done a bit better would’ve challenged for the top spot.
By lunchtime the sun was out - and I was out of bed. Sorry, mum.
I got a knock on my door at 1pm and my burger and chips lunch was delivered on a silver platter, along with a draught beer from the bar. Yes, this was heaven.
At tea I turned the kettle on and had a cuppa with a scone before settling onto a large stool and watching the rest of the day from the balcony.
The last session, which saw England’s position in the match deteriorate, was the perfect opportunity to strike up a chat with my next door neighbour, also sunning himself on his balcony.
Once the cricket was over I nipped down to the hotel bar which was buzzing with guests and former players bemoaning our Ashes performance.
I had an early-ish night and was out of my room at the crack of dawn - so early in fact that I was out before the stadium announcer could get me a second time!
Book a stay
Rooms at the Hilton Garden Inn Manchester Emirates Old Trafford start from £70 per night. You can find out more and book a room on the Hilton Garden Inn website .