The Cricketer
James Coyne James Coyne

GATTING AND HUSSAIN WAVE GOODBYE TO THE WACA

"I just hope they can take the soil from there to the new ground"

England have a grisly record at Perth’s Waca, but two former England captains will be sorry to see it depart the Test stage.

The third match of this series will be the last Ashes Test there, before most games in Western Australia move to the 55,000-capacity Perth Stadium at Burswood, on the other side of the Swan River. It will host the last ODI of the tour.

England have won just one Test at the Waca, against the Packer-weakened Australians in 1978/79.

In 1986/87 Mike Gatting led England to a Test draw and to victory in the quadrangular Perth Challenge, and his last Test was there eight years later.

“It was the most extreme venue in world cricket,” he told The Cricketer. “The nets were the bounciest and quickest anywhere, quicker than the middle sometimes, because they were fresher. It was a fabulous oval, and a fast outfield. It’s slower these days, but still quite bouncy.

“It was Geoff Marsh’s home ground, and if he got one on a good length he just dropped his hands and left it. If it was a bit wide he would cut. Trying to play the ball under your eyes was difficult. You had to really trust in the length and let it go, but it was difficult if you weren’t used to it.”

England had gone 1-0 up at Brisbane in 1986/87 and, after a big first-innings lead, Gatting had to weigh up when to declare.

“There were cracks nearly an inch wide,” he recalled. “We thought on the last day there was no way the pitch could last without doing things. But when it did hit the cracks they were so solid they actually held together. Usually with cracks, bits break off. But they didn’t. And when it did hit one it went miles and batsmen missed it. Allan Border played well and ushered his guys through.”

Meanwhile Nasser Hussain, who led England there in 2002/03, is also a fan. “I love the Waca,” he writes in his column in the February edition of The Cricketer. "I just hope they can take the soil from there to the new ground (which also looks great I have to add).

“Even the nets at the Waca are fiery. Bowlers become excited and get carried away. Slips stand too close there, somebody has to do the hard yards bowling into the Fremantle Doctor in the afternoon, and so on. It is unique.

“I played a warm-up game there against Western Australia in 1998/99. Mark Butcher had just been cleaned up [retired hurt] by Matt Nicholson and there was blood on the pitch, but I made a century. I loved playing there. You have to be careful with certain shots – playing at 45 degrees through the offside off the back foot. John Crawley would play it beautifully in England, but would get in trouble at Perth and would be caught at slip or gully. Mark Stoneman has a similar shot he plays off the back foot so he needs to be careful.”

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