Pitch report: The WACA, Perth
Ends: Members End, Prindiville Stand End
Home Team: Western Australia
Head Groundsman: Matt Page
Test History: 42 Tests; 24 home wins; 11 away wins; 7 draws
Last 10 Tests: 5 home wins, 3 away wins, 2 draws
Last 10 Tosses: 7 batted first (5 wins, 1 draw, 1 defeat); 3 fielded first (1 win, 2 defeats)
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.
In 2002 the ground was 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.
The ground fell out of favour a bit after 2013, with Cricket Australia saying it was not up to Test standards, and after a two year break from the Test calendar, it returned to host Oz against New Zealand. But as of 2018/19, the big four sides (SA, Oz, England, India) will not play here.
Weather-wise, Perth is renowned for its scorching conditions, tempered only by the Fremantle Doctor – a breeze which sweeps in along the Swan River.
Last Time Out
The most recent match here was in November last year, when New Zealand and Australia played to a dull but high-scoring draw on an unusually docile deck.
the Aussies won the toss and opted to bat, and the Kiwi fielders had to watch as David Warner and Usman Khawaja racked up big tons, with Warner recording a double.
The visitors responded in the same way, as Ross Taylor bagged a double to on his own, falling an agonising 10 runs short of a triple. Tom Latham made 166 as the Kiwis posted 624 all out.
Australia then added 385 for seven declared, with Steve Smith and Adam Voges tonning up this time, leaving the Kiwis with a target of 321 runs in the final session. They made 104 for two.
Happy Hunting Ground
David Warner is the most prolific run scorer here of the current side, having recorded three tons in four Tests, at an average of 96. Steve Smith has two tons in three Tests.
The Proteas’ best batsman here is AB de Villiers, but alas, he is not on tour. As such, Hashim Amla is next best, with over 300 runs in two Tests, averaging 77.
With Mitchell Johnson retired, the best Aussie bowler here is Mitchell Starc, who averages 26 and has 16 wickets in three Tests. Nathan Lyon has 10 scalps in three matches.
For the Proteas, Dale Steyn is best, with 11 wickets in two Tests, including seven that won the match last time he played here in 2012.
WACA curator Matt Page this week: “Hopefully it’ll be something very similar to the last (Sheffield) Shield game we had.
“There was a bit of bounce there, there was a bit of seam, something there for the bowlers, something there for the batters, there were three hundreds.
“That’s sort of what we’re looking for this time of year, being November.”
Australia captain Steve Smith on Wednesday: “There’s still a bit of grass on it, I think he might take a little bit of that off.
“When you look at the WACA wicket I guess you want to see that sheen and when it’s like that it generally goes through. That’s what we want to see from a WACA wicket, nice and fast and bouncy.”
The forecasts say it will be hot and dry for the first three days, before cooling down a bit to the mid-20s on Monday. There is not much chance of rain though.
Before the New Zealand Test last year, everyone predicted the usual fast and bouncy deck, with little chance of a draw, and look how that turned out.
But by all accounts, the track is back to it’s traditional behaviour, at least for the first two days. Recent efforts in the Sheffield Shield show that a spinner for late in the game does come in handy.
It should be a good balance between bat and ball though, and fans will hope that it’s not just a run-fest without any spice for the bowlers.
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