Say goodbye to the WACA
Ends: Members End, Prindiville Stand End
Home Team: Western Australia
Head Groundsman: Matt Page
Test History: 43 Tests; 24 home wins; 12 away wins; 7 draws
Last 10 Tests: 5 home wins, 4 away wins, 1 draw
Last 10 Tosses: 7 batted first (5 wins, 1 defeat, 1 draw); 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.
This will be the final Test hosted at the WACA before the opening of a new state-of-the-art ground in Perth.
Groundsman Matt Page will also leave the WACA after this Test, he will be heading to the MCG.
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 South Africa battered Australia in the opening Test of their three match series.
The teams were just about level after each first innings effort with the tourists scoring 242 all out largely thanks to a fighting partnership between Temba Bavuma and Quinton de Kock with Australia making 244 in reply.
Down a fast bowler after the injury of Dale Steyn South Africa set out to bat Australia out of the game and achieved this with a mammoth 540 for 8 declared powered by hundreds from Dean Elgar and JP Duminy.
Australia offered resistance but were eventually bowled out for 361 on a flat track.
Happy Hunting Ground
David Warner is the most prolific run scorer here of the current side, having recorded three tons in five Tests, at an average of 89.22. Steve Smith has two tons in four Tests.
With 21 wickets in four Tests at the WACA Mitchell Starc is Australia’s current Test wicket leader at the ground.
England’s all-time leading scorer in Perth is David Gower who managed 471 runs in five Tests in Perth but out of the current group Alastair Cook tops the bunch with 248 runs in three outings.
James Anderson’s modest return of six wickets here in two Tests leaves him as the leading wicket-taker in the group.
Groundsman Page said this week that they were eager to lay out a pitch with pace and bounce unlike the dud pitch from the drawn match against New Zealand in 2015: “I still have nightmares about that Test.
“There’s always pressure here to see pace and bounce. We’ve been trying to put the pieces of the jigsaw together.
“We did things slightly different on that wicket. We were really disappointed with the result.
“It didn’t go through, it was an absolute bat-a-thon. But we learnt a lot from that in terms of preparation.”
Australia skipper Steve Smith said: “Let’s hope it’s not like that [The draw in 2015] for this wicket. I think he’s leaving a lot more grass on it than he previously has, to try and get that pace in the wicket. Hopefully there is a bit of pace and bounce and carry in this wicket.”
The Test is expected to take place largely under cloud cover but no rain is expected intil days three and four.
In recent times the wicket in Perth has become more placid and batsman-friendly but very quick bowlers should still be able to get something out of it.
There should be no question that the team winning the toss should bat first.
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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