The countdown is now on in earnest for Test Cricket’s debut at Perth’s Optus Stadium with the second test of the Border Gavaskar Trophy set to take place at the venue from December 14th. Since it’s opening in early 2018, the multi sport venue has proven to be as state of the art and fan friendly as it is imposing to opposition teams.
Exciting as the Burswood venue has proven to be, 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.
4. HAT-TRICKS FOR A COUPLE OF AUSSIE FAVOURITES
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.
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.