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.
3. WARNIE FALLS ONE SHORT
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.