No longer a haven for fast bowlers
How times have changed. The West Indies pace attacks of yesteryears had demolished what was a virtual fortress for Australia against other visiting teams, but the WACA in Perth, and West Indies, have undergone significant changes this decade. An innings defeat in 2000 brought an end to a run of five consecutive wins in Perth for West Indies, and the series itself - they were whitewashed 0-5 - was an indication of the chronic decline of Caribbean cricket.
But Perth's reputation as a haven for fast bowlers has been challenged over the last few years, with touring teams posing a greater threat to Australia. The hosts have lost their previous two games here, and South Africa's chase of 414 last year to set up a historic series win was some evidence of how far the balance had shifted away from the bowlers. Apart from those two losses, the WACA has also staged two draws since 2000, more in terms of percentages than any other regular Test venue in the country.
The track at the WACA has grown increasingly favourable for batsmen in the last nine years, except for the second innings where there is a significant drop in the average runs per wicket. For venues that have hosted more than five Tests since 2000, the WACA has proved to be the best in the third and the fourth innings. The side batting first averages 38.09 since 2000, which marks a major increase from the years prior.
|Span||Overall||First innings||Second innings||Third innings||Fourth innings|
|Upto Dec 31, 1999||31.64||32.00||34.05||29.66||29.01|
|Since Jan 1, 2000||36.42||38.09||29.82||40.02||40.08|
WACA no longer remains the most favoured venue for fast bowlers in the country. Since 2000, the Gabba in Brisbane has produced the most lively pitch, with 78% of wickets taken by fast bowlers as opposed to WACA's 75.44%. Brisbane has also earned the major share of five-wicket hauls and a better strike-rate - 58.2 against 62.4.
|Venue||Total wickets||Wickets by fast bowlers||Percentage||Bowling Average||Strike-rate||10w/5w|
|Adelaide Oval, Adelaide||312||197||63.14||38.41||72.2||0/6|
West Indies haven't played a Test at the WACA since 2000, but Chris Gayle, Dwayne Bravo and Brendan Nash have impressive performances against their names in this series. For Australia, Ricky Ponting leads the run-scoring charts at the ground among current players with 908 in 13 Tests, but Michael Clarke has a better average of 55.85 in four games. Brad Haddin scored 94 and 46 in the only Test he played here, while Simon Katich averaged 60 in the same game against South Africa. Among the bowlers, Mitchell Johnson is Australia's best performer at the venue among the current players, with 16 wickets, including 11 in the loss against South Africa last year.
In nine Tests since 2000, the side batting first has won four and lost three games at the WACA. Teams winning the toss have opted to bat on six out of nine occasions, and in each of the last four games. Given the trend of lower scores in the second innings, and the drastic improvement in batting conditions in the third and the fourth, the captains may be prompted to make a similar decision tomorrow.
Siddhartha Talya is an editorial assistant at Cricinfo