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Best of the Tests at the WACA

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Australia_WACA_Test_CricketThe Western Australia Cricket Association ground in Perth, fondly known as the ‘WACA’, is set to host its final Ashes Test from December 14, after which international cricket in the city is expected to move to the 60,000-seater Perth Stadium. Famous for its bouncy pitch that tested the best of batsmen who set foot on Australian shores, the WACA has hosted 43 Tests since its debut in 1970-71. Here is a look back at five classic Test matches played at the venue over the years.

Australia v India, Second Test, 1977-78

Australia emerged with a narrow victory, after having won the first Test in Brisbane by 16 runs. India’s first innings of 402 was built around a second-wicket 149 between Chetan Chauhan (88) and Mohinder Amarnath (90). However, they managed only an eight-run lead, due to a stellar 176 from Bob Simpson, who was leading Australia - hit by the exodus to World Series Cricket - at the age of 41. His opposite number Bishan Singh Bedi took 5/89.

Amarnath made an impact again, scoring 100 and sharing 193 for the second wicket with Sunil Gavaskar (127). Chasing 339, the hosts were 33/2 when David Ogilvie joined night watchman Tony Mann. They put on a critical 139 for the third wicket. Mann scored a remarkable 105, and after he got out, Peter Toohey (83) took charge of the innings. Bedi (5/105) gave India hope with two wickets at 330, but the tail kept him at bay and calmly saw Australia home by two wickets.     

Australia v New Zealand, Only Test, 1989-90

After John Wright put Australia in to bat, Mark Taylor’s early dismissal was followed by a second-wicket partnership of 149 between David Boon and debutant Tom Moody. While Moody fell for a composed 61, Boon batted for seven and a half hours to score a career-best 200 from 326 balls, with 28 fours. Further bolstered by contributions from captain Allan Border (50) and Dean Jones (99), Australia declared at 521/9. The third day began with New Zealand at 25/0.

Mark Greatbatch (76) and Martin Crowe (62) drove the Kiwis to 173/2, but an implosion of 8 for 58 meant New Zealand followed on 290 in arrears on the fourth morning. A poor start of 11/2 did not bother Greatbatch, who was concentration personified as he ground out a resolute century. The final session of the Test began at 282/7, but Greatbatch, who finished with a stoic 146* from 485 balls in 655 minutes, and Martin Snedden stonewalled the hosts to snatch a draw.     

Australia v India, Third Test, 2007-08

This Test began under the dark clouds of controversy, after the previous Test at Sydney saw India at the receiving end of many a contentious umpiring decision. Moreover, an ugly row between Andrew Symonds and Harbhajan Singh threatened to disrupt the tour. India, led by Anil Kumble, faced an Australian side that had won a record-equaling 16 Tests in a row. They were also up against history – no team besides the West Indies had won in Perth in the last 22 years.

Senior pros Rahul Dravid (93) and Sachin Tendulkar (71) put on 139 for the third wicket after Kumble correctly called to bat. India lost their last six wickets for 52 though, bowled out for 330. The visitors’ young pace trio of RP Singh (4/68), Irfan Pathan and Ishant Sharma then bowled dream spells, combining to reduce Australia to 61/5. Symonds (66) and Adam Gilchrist (55) stalled the damage with a 102-run stand for the sixth wicket, but Australia ceded a lead of 118.

Australia staged a comeback by having India at 160/6 in the second innings. However, crisis man VVS Laxman (79) batted assuredly with the tail to take India’s lead above 400. Australia’s target was 413 with more than two days to go. Pathan removed the openers within ten overs, and despite Michael Clarke’s 81, the hosts stumbled to 253/8. A ninth-wicket stand of 73 kept the chase alive, but India duly sealed a famous 72-run win against the odds late on the fourth day.     

Australia v South Africa, First Test, 2008-09

Australia’s proud record at the WACA suffered another jolt as South Africa produced the second highest successful chase in Test history. Simon Katich (83) and Michael Clarke (62) shared 149 for the fourth wicket, joining forces at a precarious 15/3. Vital contributions from the middle and lower order pushed the total to 375. In reply, the Proteas slid from 234/4 to 281 all out, thanks to the brilliance of Mitchell Johnson (8/61). AB de Villiers and Jacques Kallis scored 63 each.

Australia sank to 162/7, before Brad Haddin (94) nearly doubled the score with the tail. With his team set a stiff 414, South African captain Graeme Smith (108) laid the foundation by adding 153 with Hashim Amla (53) for the second wicket. The final day began at 227/3, with Kallis (57) and de Villiers (106*) in the middle. They extended their fourth-wicket stand to 124, before AB put on another 111* with debutant JP Duminy (50*) to cap a stunning six-wicket win before tea.    

Australia v West Indies, Third Test, 2009-10

Australia, leading by 1-0, declared their first innings at 520/7 after Ricky Ponting chose to bat – the second highest Test total without a century. Openers Simon Katich (99) and Shane Watson (89) put on 132, while Michael Hussey (82), Marcus North (68) and Brad Haddin (88) kept up the tempo thereafter. West Indies’ captain Chris Gayle then took centre stage in the last two sessions of the second day, going on to play one of the most blistering knocks in Test history.

In an innings reminiscent of Roy Fredericks’ 169 in the 1975-76 Perth Test, Gayle (102) reached his hundred off just 70 balls. Doug Bollinger (5/70) however ensured that the visitors collapsed from 285/4 to 312. Opting to bat again, Australia were skittled for 150. The Windies progressed well in their chase of 359, riding on Narsingh Deonarine (82) and Brendan Nash (65), but ultimately lost by 35 runs, with the last pair adding 44 to give Australia a few anxious moments. 

 

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Rustom Deboo is a cricket blogger and freelance writer from Mumbai. He is an ardent devotee of Test...

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