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December 14, 2013
Choice of game
My home Test, and home to one of the more historically rich venues, in terms of crowd participation, team and individual performances, tradition, unique pitch and emotional investment. Names of the ilk of Dennis Lillee, Rodney Marsh, Terry Alderman, Justin Langer, Adam Gilchrist, Mike "Mr Cricket" Hussey, and others who come from Western Australia, validate the embedded Ashes history at this venue. This globally reputed bowlers' paradise always has the phantom potential for batsmen to score fast and big off its carpet-like outfield and pace off the ball.
Australia. Statistically, tough times have been bestowed on this team as they have rebuilt in recent times. What statistics don't show is that the fight in the dog that has been evident in all but maybe two bad Test losses over the past 15 months, one that only the most ardent followers would have noticed.
Steve Smith has been a much maligned middle-order prodigy who had seemingly underperformed despite his hefty price tag and high-level support. At the age of 24 and with his second ton holding his nation together whilst the shaky top order capitulates again, Smith may yet prove to be the tough back-up required if and when Michael Clarke misfires. It was a brave and confident innings under immense pressure when England were for once looking to dominate... Domination thwarted!
Shane Watson. The Allan Border medallist from all too recently has had a distinct fall from grace, form and technique. With Johnson and Ryan Harris proving more than adequate with the willow as strike bowlers, unless he can find his value in the batting line-up, his exit will make more sense for the team to bring in a genuine batsman than move him to the middle/lower order. His soft dismissal yet again outside off stump on a good length is of growing concern and easy for the opposition to plan, execute and manipulate.
One thing I'd have changed about the day
Tough to find anything. England did fight for the first time in the series, but Australia fought back, hard. So I will have to lean on semantics… shade sails! The WACA is a fantastic fan venue, up close and personal for all spectators. But a revamp is required to provide appropriate shade as there is simply no relief from the belting western sun!
Face-off I relished
It would be fair to say that the anticipated face-off between Mitchell Johnson and the entire English batting line-up had been built up extraordinarily in the week leading up to this Test. Given that Australia batted first, that will have to wait for day two. However, the crowd was not totally disappointed as the West Australian adopted "Mucho Moustachio" pasted the pasty and weary Poms all over the WACA Ground with an array of elaborate strokes to be 39 not out overnight. His face-off with Broad was particularly tense and enjoyable for the punters.
The honours again have to go to Smith. His opening scoring thump for six off Graeme Swann woke up the nervous crowd when Australia's fragile top order had been humbled. This also was a turning point for the innings as it made the intentions clear to the visitors, from which point they had no answers.
Shot of the day
The Dave Warner cover drive! Known for his power drives, powerful short-arm pull shots, the Warner show was in full force and England played right into his hands. With the sun belting down hard and a change of tactics, the strategy of bowling to his apparent weakness outside the off stump exposed an innate improvement in his compact style as the slight adjustment and footwork produced several delicious cover drives with precision placement.
The capacity crowd was abuzz with plenty of wickets early, complemented by some dazzling strokeplay and a burgeoning run rate. The 40-degree heat kept the crowd in check for most of the day, however Smith's century and Johnson's innings brought some welcome relief to accompany the famous Fremantle Doctor late in the day.
Sunglasses, sunscreen, zinc cream, blowfly repellent, wide brimmed hat and my club stubby holder to keep my beverage as cold as possible for as long as possible. The scorching Perth sun is most unkind to the under-prepared punter.
Marks out of 10
At 326 for 6, I have to score the day at 9 out of 10. England fought, Australia buckled, fought back, then wore the English down in the miserable heat. Tip of the hat to the Poms for sticking at it and toiling, but seemingly ill-advised or ill-executed bowling plans did them no favours.
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