Pitch report – The WACA
We run the rule over the venue for the third Ashes Test in Perth, where host captain Michael Clarke's average is intriguingly substandard – and fast bowler Mitchell Johnson's record is remarkably superb.
<b>Established:</b> 1893<br><b>Capacity:</b> 24,500<br><b>Floodlights:</b> Yes<br><b>Ends:</b> Members End, Prindiville Stand End<br><b>Home Team:</b> Western Australia<br><b>Head Groundsman:</b> Matt Page<br><b>Test History:</b> 40 Tests; 23 home wins; 10 away wins; 7 draws<br><b>Last 10 Tests:</b> 6 home wins, 3 away wins, 1 draw<br><b>Last 10 Tosses:</b> 6 batted first (4 wins, 1 draws, 1 defeat); 4 fielded first (1 win, 3 defeats)
<b>Overview</b><br>Built on old swamp land and home to many sports, including AFL, rugby union, rugby league and soccer, the Western Australian Cricket Association Ground was first put to use in 1890.
Hosting its first Test in 1970, the WACA promptly became synonymous for its quick pitch, where some of Australia's greatest fast bowlers of the modern era – Glenn McGrath, Merv Hughes, Craig McDermott, Brett Lee – have enjoyed fine records.
2002 saw the ground redeveloped and its capacity reduced to make it more economically viable amid lack of investment. Fresh features to come with the makeover included a new small grandstand, players' pavilion, smaller playing area and replacements of some seats with grass embankments.
Weather-wise, Perth is renowned for its scorching conditions, tempered only by the Fremantle Doctor – a breeze which sweeps in along the Swan River.
<b>Last Time Out</b><br>South Africa's decision to bat first a year ago didn't bring a big total, as spinner Nathan Lyon surprisingly had the biggest say in a weak 225 all out. Visiting slow bowler Robin Peterson then followed suit, playing a large role in the hosts' dismissal for 163.
The pitch evened out considerably thereafter, with big centuries from the right-handed AB de Villiers and Hashim Amla ensuring a fat lead – despite left-armer Mitchell Starc's six-for. The Aussies slipped to an insufficient 322 all out after tea on day four, at which point all of five part-time bowlers – across both teams – had turned their arm over.
<b>Happy Hunting Ground</b><br>Captain <b>Michael Clarke</b> has the most Test runs at this venue among Australia's current cricketers, but sports a ground average of just 37.00 – almost a whopping 20 runs shy of his career aggregate – after eight matches.
Wicketkeeper-batsman <b>Brad Haddin</b>, however, has accrued a venue average in excess of 44, which defies considerably inferior career numbers – and it says a lot that he wasn't in the team for November 2012's defeat to South Africa.
The in-form <b>Mitchell Johnson</b> is historically primed for success at his homeground. 36 wickets in just five matches at an average of under 20 makes for remarkable reading. He boasts a fighting half-century here too.
England's <b>Ian Bell</b> managed a consolatory half-ton amid general despair in 2010, while fast bowler <b>Chris Tremlett</b> will demand a recall this week on the back of a vain eight-for in the same match.
<b>They Said</b><br>"We'll have to look at the wicket first and foremost, see what it's like. If we think it warrants Faulkner playing and the four quicks so be it. But, look, it's going to be hot weather here – it's 35 and getting up to 40 on Monday – so we'll probably, I think we'll play the spinner." – Australia coach <b>Darren Lehmann</b>.
"With the weather we're going to get – 37, 38 – it's pretty conducive and will bake the surface and definitely help it go through better. I'm pretty confident there'll be some pace and bounce. The last Shield games here have been quite good. I'm confident it will be exactly the same. Spinning-wise you'll get the footmarks day four, day five. You'll get a bit of turn out of there. Spinners here normally get the bounce more than anything." – new curator <b>Matt Page</b>.
"It's a challenge. When you come to the WACA, you know you're going to get fast, bouncy wickets and you know you've got to deal with that as a batter. But I think it's a great place to bat, I think the fast bowlers get excited when they come here and the batters do as well. There's something there for everyone and if you can invest a little bit of time as a batsman there's plenty of runs to be had." – Australian batsman <b>George Bailey</b>.
"I'd like to see – at Mitchell's home ground, being in front of his adopted state, Western Australia – what the adrenaline does to his pace. Not forgetting that it's not all about speed. It's about making sure that the ball is in the right spot and that is what Mitchell has done since his return to international cricket." – Australian bowling coach <b>Craig McDermott</b>.
<b>Weather Forecast</b><br>Entirely sunny conditions across days one through three will be partly clouded on days four and five, but not a drop of rain predicted throughout. Not even the Fremantle Doctor, even, will be able to cool very sweaty conditions.
<b>Conclusion</b><br>The WACA wicket is a veritable seamers' paradise, as dictated by conditions for Australia's series opener against India in 2012 and state cricket results since.
All-pace attacks were picked then, and are an arguable demand this time around. Coach Darren Lehmann, though, isn't inclined to leave a spinner out of the XI, so Nathan Lyon's spot looks safe. The same cannot be said for England's Graeme Swann, who'll draw on Lyon and Peterson's success in disagreeing with probable final selection.
Should the hosts go with just the three seamers, then the option of all-rounder James Faulkner is bound to challenge the in-form Peter Siddle and Ryan Harris. If opting for additions to the pace barrage, Faulkner before Harris might transpire.
England, at a veritable home away from home (given the Barmy Army's travelling presence), seem the most likely to avoid a spinner. Swann was a non-entity in Adelaide, and should make way for 2010 consolation Tremlett.
History, too, will impact the present: Australia have lost only three of their last 16 Tests here, while England's last visit brought a momentous defeat. The last draw here, was in 2005. Page, regardless, faces a staunch task in picking up where former curator Cameron Sutherland left off.
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