WACA Memories

With another Test Match underway at the WACA ground in Perth, the clock is ticking on the venue’s status as the home of International Cricket in Western Australia. A state of the art venue is nearing completion in Burswood, a multi-purpose stadium that will, in the very near future, become the epicentre for sport in Perth.

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There is no doubt that the new Perth Stadium will be an extraordinary addition to Australia’s already impressive list of Stadia. As part of a larger sporting precinct, the 60,000-seat arena is set to offer an unprecedented fan friendly environment. Large seats, cutting edge technology, and unbelievable hospitality areas including:

Australia’s first Field Club – The Field Club offers fans the opportunity to watch the players warm up and view the post-match media conference.

The Coaches Club – The Coaches Club is flanked by the West Coast Eagles and Fremantle Dockers coaches boxes. Sound can be projected from the coaches box into the Coaches Club, giving patrons unrivalled insight into the game.

The Sky View Lounge is located underneath a giant screen. Patrons can stand and watch an event plus take in the views back to the City

Exciting as these features are, what the WACA lacks in trinkets it more than makes up for in history and folklore. Opened in 1893 and a Test Match venue since 1970, it has been an intimidating venue for visiting teams to these shores and a favourite for Australian teams and fans. As other venues became more alike in their blandness, the WACA has retained a character that has lent itself to attackingly played Test Matches.

One of the Old Girl’s most cherished characteristics is that of the pitch. Mindful of this, the Perth Stadium have been meticulous in trying to replicate these characteristics in the drop-in pitches that will be used in the Burswood venue. WACA curators created pitches using the same trays that will be used at the new ground. A ‘trial’ match, replicating Test Match conditions, was played and the nature of the pitch was recorded using many different measures. From captain’s reports, similar to those used after First Class matches asking for players’ perceptions of the pitch, Hawkeye and Nuclear Bulk Density Gauges, no stone was left unturned to test the pitch. They will continue this work until all are happy that the WACA pitch is successfully replicated in these drop-pitches.

If they are successful in their efforts, many will quickly move on from their sadness at the demise of Perth’s first Test Match venue. Despite this, the WACA will live long in the memory of Australian Cricket Fans, through its long list of Test Match highlights. Let’s take a look at some of the more memorable.

                                                                                                                                                                            

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PROTEAS CHASE DOWN 414

South Africa arrived in Australia in 2008 confident of securing their first series win in Australia since their readmission to International Cricket. Australia in decline, but still clinging grimly to the ICC Mace as Test Cricket’s number one team, were determined to protect their proud home record.

After Australia’s second innings the match appeared over, with the South Africans required to complete the second largest successful fourth innings chase in history if they were to be victorious. A task seemingly beyond the Proteas with a fired-up Mitchell Johnson steaming in after his 8-61 in the first innings.

Despite the mammoth task ahead of them, Australia had no answers to the visitors bats and South Africa were untroubled in their chase. Graeme Smith and AB De Villiers both scoring tons as the Proteas claimed victory only 4 down.

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HAYDOS HITS WORLD RECORD 380

Zimbabwe’s one and only Test visit to Western Australia was memorable for reasons the Test minnows would like to forget. Captain Heath Streak correctly called the coin toss but inexplicably invited the Australian’s to bat first, an invitation the World Number One team took full advantage of.

After 146 overs of back breaking toil under the Perth sun, the Zimbabweans had conceded the second highest score in the history of Test Cricket, 6/735dec and witnessed first-hand, Matthew Hayden set a new record for highest individual Test Match Innings.

The big-hitting, broad shouldered Queenslander was merciless in his 10 hour marathon stay at the crease. He bludgeoned the Zimbabwean attack to all parts of the WACA ground, smashing 49 boundaries in an innings he has described as the most perfect he has played.

After finishing day one 183 not out, Hayden resumed the assault on Day 2. Seemingly untroubled, he passed the Australian record of 334, held by Mark Taylor and Don Bradman. It was only as he closed in on Brian Lara’s World Record of 375 that he showed any kind of fallibility. Then, facing the left-arm spin of Ray Price, in the last over before tea, a gentle push to mid-off allowed Hayden a single and the record.

His Captain granted Hayden the opportunity to become the first man to score 400 in a Test Match innings and the opener looked to increase the scoring rate even further. A brilliant innings was brought to an end by a brilliant Stuart Carlisle catch, but not before the WACA scorer Charlie Bull ran out of space in the score book and had to use the 12th man column to record the last third of the record-breaking knock.

HAT-TRICKS FOR A COUPLE OF AUSSIE FAVOURITES

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When Merv Hughes trapped Gordon Greenidge LBW with his first ball of the West Indies second innings in 1988, the giant hearted Victorian was unaware he had taken Test Cricket’s 18th, and most unusual, hat-trick.

It’s not unusual for a hat-trick to be spread over two overs, but Swervin’ Mervyn, never one to be bound by convention, managed to spread his effort across three overs, two innings and two days. On Day 2 of the match, Hughes slanted the last ball of his 36th over across a tentative Curtly Ambrose, prodding at the delivery he managed only to feather the ball through to a waiting Ian Healy. With the first ball of his next delivery Hughes tempted Patrick Paterson into a loose drive that was caught by Tony Dodemaide in the covers. The wicket, completed Hughes’ 5 for and, ended the West Indies innings.

It wasn’t until the shadow of stumps on the following day that Hughes was able to remove Greenidge and complete his unusual feat. Hughes signed off on his man of the match performance finishing the second innings with figures of 8/87. Despite his 13 wickets for the match, Australia succumbed to the mighty Windies team by 169 runs.

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In the lead up to the Perth Test in 2000, Glenn McGrath had taken 298 wickets and had a very clear plan for bringing up wickets 299 and 300. The metronomical paceman told anyone who would listen that he would dismiss Sherwin Campbell for wicket 299 and Brian Lara, next ball for the milestone.

On this day, as was often the case with McGrath, his actions turned seemingly outlandish claims into the prophetic. After 8 overs, Campbell and Wavell Hinds were trying to patch up the Windies innings after the early dismissal of Darren Ganga. With the third ball of the over McGrath, bowling to Campbell, was able to extract extra bounce and a little sideways movement. Jammed up and playing down the wrong line, the opener was only able to parry the ball to a waiting Ricky Ponting at slip.

With Campbell’s removal, Brian Lara strode to the crease and the WACA crowd grew expectant as McGrath’s dream scenario became possible. The World’s Number One ranked batsman never had a chance though, a McGrath peach first up finding Lara’s offered edge on the way to the waiting slip cordon. The elementary dismissal was given a little angst by the juggle required by Stuart Magill before finally grasping the chance and the key wicket of the West Indies champ.

Having seen his team reduced to 3/19 Jimmy Adams took guard amid a cacophony of sound. Having seen two crackers, the West Indies Captain would no doubt have been prepared for the best McGrath had to offer. What confronted him probably doesn’t qualify for that category but the short delivery headed down leg drew the desired result. Rather than leave the benign offering, a nervous Adams, eager to defuse the situation, with heavy hands prodded at the passing ball, only to pop up a simple chance to Justin Langer at short leg.

WARNIE FALLS ONE SHORT

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In a career full of amazing moments, Shane Warne achieved almost all that there was to achieve in the game of Cricket. Arguably the games’ greatest bowler, he was also a handy batsman whose ability exceeded his career batting average of 17.

As his career continued deep into its later years his oft stated goal was to score a Test Match Century. Good enough to reach 50 twelve times, it was not a goal beyond his abilities. His closest effort came at the WACA in a glorious counter attacking innings against New Zealand in 2001.

At 6/192, Warne joined Damien Martyn at the crease with Australia still 342 runs behind the Kiwis first innings total. Despite the perilous situation the Australian’s found themselves in, under the captaincy of Steve Waugh they refused to be counted out, Warne and Martyn continued to punish the bad ball. The pair scoring at a respectable 3 an over as they put on 78 for the 7th Wicket before Martyn perished.

Now partnered with the tail, Warne attacked even harder. The leg-spinner cut, drove and slogged Australia past the follow on as Brett Lee watched on with the best view in the house. Lee’s dismissal left Warne painfully close to a maiden century with Jason Gillespie and Glenn McGrath left to score it with.

Vettori completed his 5 for with the dismissal of Gillespie. Warne not out on 94 at the non-strikers end, watched as Glenn McGrath came to the crease and survived the remaining two balls of Vettori’s over.

The crowd eager to see their hero reach the mark were in loud voice as Warne massaged two two’s and a single of the next over, both retain the strike and move to 99. The tension grew along with the shadows as Warne played three Vettori deliveries without a run. The wily Vettori, sensing Warne’s discomfort, enticed the leg spinner with a looping delivery. The leg-spinner’s eyes lit up as he sensed his chance for a century and he threw all he had into a massive heave square.

All eyes in the stadium tracked the top edge as it flew towards the mid-wicket boundary. Hopes of a six quickly turned to hopes of a dropped catch as the trajectory of the ball became apparent. Hopes that were dashed when an excited Mark Richardson turned to a silent crowd and performed a bow after grasping Warne’s meaty swipe.

If the tale wasn’t heartbreaking enough already for Warne, replays later showed the leg spinner was desperately unlucky too. Despite missing a no-ball that should have been a reprieve for the dismissed Justin Langer earlier in the innings, the umpires were again unsighted when Vettori over stepped during the delivery that dismissed Warne.

AMBROSE AT HIS MENACING BEST

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The 1992/93 Frank Worrall Trophy Series represented Australia’s best chance of wresting the trophy from the West Indies grasp in almost 20 years. After falling an agonising one run short of securing the series in Adelaide, the Allan Border led team headed to Perth with high hopes.

At 2/85, Border would have been relatively happy with his decision to bat after winning the toss. What followed was 32 balls of precision and venom from Curtly Ambrose that is the stuff cricket nightmares are made of.

Unable to deal with the fast bowling greats pace and movement, the Australian batsmen were powerless to stop the carnage. The Australians who entered the match full of confidence were taken down one by one, by one of the most impressive spells ever seen on these shores.

Once it was all said and done, Ambrose remarkable spell garnered him seven wickets for the cost of only one run! The Australian’s building comfortably only overs before at 2/85, had been dismissed for 119. Shell-shocked, the Australian’s watched the West Indies finish the day 1/135 all but ending the contest. When they fell to defeat by an Innings and 25 runs less than two days later, it was no surprise their destroyer, Ambrose, was named man of the match.

                                                                                                                                                                            

The Perth Stadium, from a spectator comfort stand point, is a massive step up from the old WACA ground and will provide a World Class venue for the fans of Western Australia to watch Test Matches from. It is never wise to stand in the way of progress but it will be tinged with sadness when the new venue receives the baton from the WACA.

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