Ashes 2017: Iconic WACA, a graveyard for visiting teams, set to host its final Test

The WACA ground, where the third Ashes Test will be played this week, has been described as ramshackle, frozen in time, evocative and a veritable graveyard for visiting teams.

AFP, Dec 12, 2017 10:53:24 IST

Perth: The WACA ground, where the third Ashes Test will be played this week, has been described as ramshackle, frozen in time, evocative and a veritable graveyard for visiting teams.

The minimalist venue on the edges of Perth's CBD is hosting its 44th and final Test match from Thursday before future games are switched to the swanky new 60,000-capacity Perth Stadium across the Swan River.

The Western Australian Cricket Association (WACA) ground is well past its use-by date as an international cricket venue and has been left behind by refurbished venues in other capital cities throughout the country.

The iconic WACA ground will be hosting its 44th and final Test match. Image courtesy: Twitter @samuelfez

The iconic WACA ground will be hosting its 44th and final Test match. Image courtesy: Twitter @samuelfez

The lead-up to the Ashes Test has conjured enduring memories of iconic cricketers and their daring deeds in its open-air theatre.

It ranges from Adam Gilchrist's 57-ball hundred pyrotechnics to Curtly Ambrose's spell of seven for one, Doug Walters hooking the final ball from Bob Willis for six to complete a century in a session and button-down shirted Dennis Lillee thundering in to bowl with the wind at his back.

The WACA Ground once boasted it was the fastest pitch in the world until a relaid wicket in the late 1980s slowed it down a tad.

West Australian Test great Justin Langer recalls facing Pakistan's express bowler Shoaib Akhtar on a flyer of a WACA pitch in 2004.

"Ricky Ponting and I were just laughing our heads off, because we could have got a single every ball given how far Moin Khan, the wicketkeeper, was standing back," Langer said.

"I was very happy letting the captain take the strike. When you’re batting at the end with the sea breeze behind the bowler, you feel alive.

"You need to leave a lot of balls and if you leave well then you can have great success.

"Fast bowlers usually come here and get carried away," he added.

"They have heard about the WACA so they bowl it far too short.

"It flies through to the keeper and the bowler thinks 'Ah ...', and the batter thinks, 'Come on, keep on doing it baby.’"

Cherished memories 

A large part of the fondness towards the WACA is the prevailing afternoon sea breeze, dubbed "The Fremantle Doctor", which provides respite for fielding sides from the scorching heat or those frazzling in the old stands that offer little shade.

But to visiting English teams, the WACA is a nightmare as history bears out.

England last won a Test in Perth in 1978 and touring Ashes sides have lost the last seven encounters there, and heavily.

It has always been iconic fast bowlers who wrought the destruction, whether it was Lillee and his partner in crime Jeff Thomson terrorising touring batsman –- David Lloyd had his protective box spilt in the 1974-75 series -- or Mitchell Johnson and Ryan Harris taking 18 wickets between them in the thumping 2010 win.

It's little wonder one English journalist describes the WACA as England's Ashes necropolis, the cruellest of grounds, a theatre of nightmares.

But there will be some sadness to see the back of a ground first used as a Test venue in 1970.

Opener Graeme Wood cherishes the memories of his home ground, which include a brilliant 111 against the fearsome West Indian bowling attack in 1988.

"It's known worldwide, so as a homegrown boy it is very dear to me," he said.

"It's going to be the last one here. It'll be a little bit sad to see it go to the new stadium."

Updated Date: Dec 12, 2017 10:53:24 IST







Top Stories

Rank Team Points Rating
1 India 5007 116
2 South Africa 4280 110
3 England 5310 108
4 New Zealand 3213 107
5 Australia 4143 101
6 Sri Lanka 4103 91
Rank Team Points Rating
1 England 6918 126
2 India 7351 121
3 New Zealand 5188 113
4 South Africa 4985 111
5 Pakistan 4370 102
6 Australia 4290 100
Rank Team Points Rating
1 Pakistan 4979 138
2 India 5298 126
3 England 2586 118
4 Australia 3266 117
5 South Africa 2502 114
6 New Zealand 2940 113