Built for speed

Benjamin Golby
The future of the WACA ground may be in doubt, but it is set for a final hurrah

Perth is a cricket destination renowned for fast bowling. The pitch at Dennis Lillee's home ground bakes through the city's long, burning summer to seethe with bounce and pace. From the muggings of the West Indies and Pakistan in the 1980s, to Ryan Harris and Mitchell Johnson's decimation of England in recent seasons, Perth makes for fast, exciting cricket.

All this may soon change. The Western Australian Cricket Association (WACA) ground has been admonished by Cricket Australia for its inadequate facilities and denied a Test match this summer. With a five-tiered stadium being constructed across the river, the future of the WACA is in doubt and international cricket in Perth may well change in character.

Whatever the future holds, watching ODI cricket in Perth is a great experience. Following the searing heat of the afternoon, the evenings are a balm, with the lingering warmth of the day tempered by pleasant breezes. Under the bright lights it makes a divine setting for night cricket.

The venue
On the outskirts of downtown Perth - nestled by a bend in the Swan river - the WACA is an anachronism in Australian cricket. It has a manned scoreboard, two expansive grassy hills, and visiting players descend to the field through the Members Pavilion. As the only Australian ground not to be used for football in the winter, it has kept a little more of its cricketing soul than its cousins have. It has also retained its discomforts: most noticeably for the spectator, there is pitifully little shade from the blazing Perth summer around the poky concrete stands.

The loss of outmoded charm is not the only sad part of the WACA's probable abandonment. A compact ground, it's a great place to watch the game, and affords the spectator intimacy. The ground's old-world character is not that of dignity, such as that of Trent Bridge and Lord's, but of 1980s Australia. Be sure to take a hat, sunglasses and protective sun cream to the ground, and drink plenty of water. You'll be enjoying a piece of Australiana.

Ground page | Fixtures

Great matches
Australia v Zimbabwe, Carlton Series, 2001
The fates of Perth dislike fantasy, stranding Zimbabwe by a solitary run in this match. Batting on an absolute road of a pitch, Damien Martyn made 144 not out in a total of 302. Stuart Carlisle and Grant Flower defied the world with a stand of 187 against Bracken, Fleming, Lee and McGrath, only for Zimbabwe to wrap up on 301.

Australia v Sri Lanka, CB Series, 2012
The most exciting ODI of recent times at the WACA was, for the most part, a dull nothing of a game. Sri Lanka were all but out of the contest when, in the final wicket-stand, the match exploded. Angelo Mathews turned berserk and, in a preposterous exhibition, somehow took the side within a six of victory. A drudge of fate saw him caught on the boundary but it could not discount the demonstration that a game of cricket is ever open.

Top performers in ODIs
Most runs Dean Jones, 545 at 49.54 | Top score Damien Martyn, 144* v Zimbabwe
Most wickets Wasim Akram, 26 at 14.42 | Best bowling Ravi Shastri, 5 for 15 v Australia

Home team
Western Australia towered in cricket throughout the 1970s, dominating the Sheffield Shield and producing a swag of international players. In recent years, the state has been variable. Justin Langer has been recruited as coach to dismiss WA's reputation as talented but volatile scamps. The state has some of the country's most exciting cricketers in Shaun and Mitchell Marsh, Nathan Coulter-Nile and Ashton Agar, but each is yet to establish himself internationally.

Major players
Graham McKenzie | Rod Marsh | Dennis Lillee | Kim Hughes | Terry Alderman | Damien Martyn | Justin Langer | Michael Hussey

Benjamin, a resident of Melbourne, is writing a thesis on "Music about Donald Bradman"

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