Why I love the Perth Test

by Steve Fahey

As a young boy in Melbourne in the early 1970s, Perth seemed a world away and too distant to even be in the same country.  But I was glad it was, because it meant that DK Lillee, Rod Marsh and their facial hair were on OUR team.

My first memory of cricket in Perth was by radio, listening to Greg Chappell score a ton on debut in the first ever Perth Test in 1970.  A year later I was in the back of the car listening on the radio to Australia play the Rest of the World in Perth.  The soon to be great DK took 8-29 to decimate the best of the rest and listening made me want to watch this bloke bowl, preferably on this rock-hard, fast pitch that Alan McGilvray and his colleagues described.  It sounded so exciting and even dangerous.

It was dangerous, but not that exciting, for the English bats when they faced DK and Thommo in Perth in 1974-75.  By this time a young opening batsman, I watched the Poms jumping and ducking with a mixture of enthrallment, bloodlust and vicarious fear (especially when David “Bumble” Lloyd had his box split in half by Thommo).  How on earth could you bat to that type of bowling ?

A tiny West Indian opener named Roy Fredericks provided my answer the following season.  He hooked and cut his way to a breathtaking 169 in just 145 balls against our dynamic duo.  This was Test cricket, and indeed cricket in any form, like I’d never seen before, and sealed my love affair with the bouncy WACA wicket.  I decided that this was how cricket should be, as long as I didn’t have to bat on wickets like that !

I watched a domestic one-day game at the WACA in awe in 1976/77 as the great DK led the way for the locals to successfully defend a total of 77 against a Queensland line-up that included Viv Richards and Greg Chappell.  Naturally DK knocked over both of these greats.

Possibly due to a combination of heat and the steep bounce in the wicket, cricket at the WACA has often seen tempers fray.  We were reminded of the danger inherent in batting on this pitch in 1988/89 when big Curtly Ambrose smashed Henry Lawson’s jaw, prompting a spiteful period in a game in which big Merv took a hat-trick.   Spitefulness at the WACA reached another level in 1996/97 when Curtly repeatedly deliberately over stepped in an attempt to rough up Warnie.  On a ground at which DK and Javed Miandad had set the lowest possible standard in their infamous physical encounter in 1980/81, this was an improbable new nadir.

I finally got to the WACA in the flesh in 1995 to see what was the last Test for both Gooch and Gatting.  Like many Ashes Tests in the 1990s the Poms had half a chance to win but didn’t.  Blewett scored his second hundred in as many Tests, and McDermott and McGrath tore through the top order to have the Poms beaten at 6/27 in their second dig.  Although the wicket had lost a bit of its sting by the mid 1990s, it still offered a bit to bowlers who put in the effort, and provided some pace for strokemakers.  It was stinking hot before the Doctor blew in each afternoon and all in all pretty much how I’d imagined it – a fantastic place to watch cricket and then head to the beach for a cooling swim.

Perth Tests are also great viewing on the box, especially because the time difference means that play goes into the evening in the eastern states.  After a long day at work there is nothing better than putting your feet up and watching the last session, and remembering the days when every ball seemed to whiz around the batsman’s throat.  The wicket at the WACA became quite benign in the 2000s, culminating in the blancmange served up for the 2005/06 test in which Warne and McGrath couldn’t bowl out the South Africans.   The wicket square was rebuilt a couple of years ago in an effort to return to faster bouncier tracks, but we haven’t quite seen the evidence yet, at least in Test cricket.

Regardless, when the Perth Test starts on Thursday, I’ll be leaving the office early to get home, watch the action and reminisce about DK, Thommo, Roy and Curtly.  And hope that the ball is whizzing around throat high !

Comments

  1. Peter Flynn says:

    Steve,

    Great read.

    I remember Doug Walters bringing up a hundred in a session. We were parked outside the Minerva Road Fish and Chip Shop in Geelong West at the time.

    Check this out from 74/75:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T0WieLYnjbY

    It’s all brilliant but watch it from about 6:25 on. Very amusing.

    PF

  2. The worst Test I have ever been to was the one against New Zealand at the WACA in 1985/86.

    On the other hand, I was there when Walters hit his six to get the ton in a session against the Poms in 1974/75.

    And I was even at the WACA in 1978/79 against the Poms when a session was washed out by rain.

  3. Steve, while you listened to Greg Chappell’s ton in Perth in 1970, I watched it on the ABC on black and white TV …..until the ABC switched to the 7.00 pm news just as Chappell was about to strike the century scoring run.

    Many people remembered that performance when Kerry Packer fought the ABC over cricket broadcasting a few years later. Even those of us who were barracking for the ABC knew that ABC programmers didn’t understand their most popular sport.

  4. Peter Flynn says:

    The late James Dibble read that news I believe.

  5. John Butler says:

    Steve, great stuff.

    I vividly remember watching DK win that one-dayer from an impossible position.

    Roy Fredericks’ blazing century with Thommo and DK flinging them down also stays in the memory.

    I hope the pitch can return to something like its old glory. It always made for such different cricket.

  6. Did the great Doug Walters hit a six on the last ball of the day to not only bring up his century but as Peter said his century for the session?

    I think he was quoted as saying there are always plenty of gaps if you hit it in the air.

    Speaking of the great man; he did not have a very good record on the slow Pommy pitches but was pretty good else where. I am thinking that the Hughes reinstatement may have merit.

    I finally got to watch him live in an international one dayer at the MCG and a domestic one dayer at the scenic NTCA (Boon and Ponting home turf) and he was out first ball on both occasions. Bugger.

  7. Peter Flynn says:

    Correct Phantom.

    He was out the next day on his overnight score after a decent sip.

  8. Damian Watson says:

    Great work Steve,

    I’ll never forget that Brett Lee bouncer on the fast WACA track which almost cost English batsman Alex Tudor an eye in 2002. The ball rocketed in between the batsman’s visor and the top of his helmet and for a moment he appeared to be in a significant spot of bother as the blood dripped down his face.

  9. The line went down mid-8/29 and we didn’t see the highlights until the news that night – including R.W. marsh’s great catch (off Clive Lloyd maybe?).

    Was mowing Mrs McGrath’s lawn with ear plug in and only got inside in time for the last few overs of K.D. Walters superb innings. Had to do Mrs McGrath’s lawnin the twilight and nesr-dark as I had put it off and put it off. Next day was Sunday. Went to friends for lunch to experience colur TV for the first time.

    Interesting how those 70s Tests are so memorbale.

    Either they were interesting and capable players perfrmoing marvellous feats. Or you just rememeber the things of your youth better?

  10. Steve Fahey says:

    A very interesting question posed in the last paragraph John. I think that both of your reasons are very valid and would add that there was a lot less international cricket in those days, so the games were more memorable and special than in the current era.

    I certainly remember the two summers in which we had both the establishment and World Series cricket as the best two summers of my life, as I was the right age 15-16 to have few/no repsonsibilities and lots of time to attend cricket and watch it on the box. I didn’t even have to mow Mrs. McGrath’s lawn !!!!!!

    And they weren’t all highly capable playes – for every Xavier Doherty there was a Sam Gannon, Tony Mann, David Ogilvy etc. – still very good players, but not up to Test standard.

  11. #10. Ah, yes. Tony Mann. Prolonged his Test career (by two matches) as a spinner by scoring a century as a nightwatchman in Perth. Any other examples of a bowler saving his place in the side via his batting?

    And great piece, Steve. Many good memories for me too. Was it in Perth that Roy Fredericks got off the mark with a 6? And I seem to remember him hitting a 6 once but being out because he swung so hard in the shot that his bat hit the stumps.

  12. Steve Fahey says:

    Yes, Gigs

    He stood on his stumps hooking for six in the inaugural World Cup final at Lords in 1975.

    Can’t think of any other bowlers saving their place with their batting but Dizzy Gillespie’s 200 against Bangladesh left him very unlucky to not hold his spot !!

  13. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rocket says:

    Dougie Walters 6 off the last ball of the day to bring up a ton has been recalled by many colleagues above.

    The fact that we could watch cricket on TV until well into the evening justified playing a test in Perth!

  14. Steve Fahey says:

    Four of the ten fastest Test centuries of all time now at the WACA – yet another reason to love the Perth Test ! Fredericks’ ton against Lillee and Thomson still the best of those 4.

  15. Malcolm Ashwood says:

    Great article , Steve and I must admid I didn’t realise that so many of my early memories were from games in Perth , remember the furore when the , ABC left the coverage with Greg Chappell on 99 , the rest of the world series with DKs 8 29 was really when he announced himself to the cricket world . The Gillette cup game where , Lillee was the ringleader in defending 77 .Totally agree with you re Roy Fredericks innings word can not describ it and of course the great man , DK Walters havin had the pleasure to do some coaching With , Doug I can vouch for his drinking ability
    I agree with you , Steve the , Perth test is in , Bruces word , SPECIAL

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