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Australia v England, 3rd Test, Perth

A guide to the WACA

Peter English

December 13, 2006

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Perth's WACA ground established its reputation as a fast bowler's delight but in recent seasons spinners have been having more success. Here, Cricinfo looks at the venue for the third Test.



The air up there: the WACA from above © Getty Images
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Capacity 24,500
Record Tests 10, Australia 6, England 1, Drawn 3

Weather
It's usually hot, but the only thing that is dependable is the Fremantle doctor, the cooling afternoon breeze off the ocean. It provides a good opportunity for the into-the-wind swing bowler to get moving and will help the pace of Lee, Harmison and Co at the other end. Baking days that expand cracks in the pitch are also likely.

What to expect
This year nobody is really sure. Alex Tudor remembers the bounce from Brett Lee, but the pitch has changed face since 2002-03 and hasn't offered much to the fast men this season. The groundsman Cameron Sutherland says the famed lift will return, but it hasn't turned up during the domestic games and batsmen have scored freely and heavily. Spinners have had the most success lately and there was talk of playing Shane Warne with Stuart MacGill before Andrew Symonds' offspin and medium pace were preferred. A repeat of the first four days at Adelaide is a sensible bet.

What the players think
Michael Hussey - "Over in the west we're a pretty parochial mob so the support you get in your home city is unbelievable. They are just so passionate in Western Australia. When I played my first game for Australia there the roar of the crowd and the support of the crowd were phenomenal."

Ground history
The WACA (Western Australian Cricket Association Ground), which is built on old swamp land, has been the home to many sports, including AFL, rugby (both codes) and soccer, but its real fame is as a cricket ground. Although it was first used in 1890, transport problems meant it was not part of Australia's main cricket community. It was only with the introduction of scheduled flights that Perth become truly accessible.

The WACA staged its first Test in 1970-71 and soon established a reputation for being a fast and hard track, and that continued until the last couple of years when the surface flattened out. In 2002, the ground was redeveloped and its capacity reduced to make it more economical. Features included building a new small grandstand and players' pavilion, reducing the size of the playing arena, and replacing seats with grass hills on each side. As a result, the permanent capacity of the stadium is 22,000, but temporary stands used for all major events boost it to 24,500.

Ashes moments
Greg Chappell's Test century on debut signalled the start of a wonderful career. His 108 from No. 7 marked the ground's opening Test in 1970-71 and Brian Luckhurst, Ian Redpath and John Edrich also got centuries in the draw.

"Ashes to Ashes, dust to dust, if Lillee doesn't get you, then Thommo must" became a familiar cry for the 1974-75 series. Colin Cowdrey, 41, was summoned from England for the Perth Test, standing up to the bowling and making 22 and 41. Jeff Thomson took seven wickets, including Cowdrey twice, while Lillee also made a mark. Doug Walters' century in a session was another jaw-dropping performance in an action-packed game.



Flashpoint: Dennis Lillee argues with umpire Max O'Connell over the legality of his aluminium bat © Getty Images
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Five years later Lillee earned more fame for his aluminum bat. Lillee walked out to use his contraption and after four deliveries and three runs Mike Brearley complained it was damaging the ball. Play was held up for ten minutes as the umpires persuaded Lillee to change to a piece of willow. He's now the president of the WACA.

An eventful Test in 1982-83 with Terry Alderman dislocating his shoulder while tackling a man involved in a pitch invasion. Greg Chappell led his team off for 14 minutes and 26 arrests were made. Chris Tavare was on 66 for 90 minutes in the first innings, finally finishing with 89 from 337 balls.

Ashes stats
England's only win at the ground came during the World Series Cricket split in 1978-79, when David Gower scored 102 and Rodney Hogg earned ten wickets. Gower has the most runs in Australia-England contests at Perth with 471 in five games, leading Greg Chappell (371), Steve Waugh (351), Geoffrey Boycott (319) and Allan Border (317).

Ian Botham's 11 for 176 in 1979-80, including 6 for 78 and 5 for 98, were his best figures against Australia. It was not enough for England to avoid defeat. Chris Broad, David Gower and Jack Richards posted centuries in 1986-87 as England declared at 8 for 592, the highest Ashes score at the ground.

In 1990-91 Craig McDermott recorded career-best figures of 8 for 97 and collected 11 victims for the match. McDermott's 17 dismissals in two games are the most at the ground, three ahead of Lillee, Botham and Willis.

Where to go after play?
Michael Hussey - "The Subiaco Hotel is very good for food and drink. It's a ten-minute drive from the WACA."

Peter English is the Australasian editor of Cricinfo

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