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WACA pitch is a sad joke

The Roar The Roar 16/11/2015 Ronan O'Connell

Ross Taylor runs off the ground after being dismissed for 290 runs. © REUTERS/David Gray Ross Taylor runs off the ground after being dismissed for 290 runs.

There are few things in cricket more depressing than a lifeless WACA pitch. After the perfect Test strip produced at Brisbane, Perth had a tough act to follow. But the groundsman failed miserably.

At the Gabba, the players were offered a wonderful surface. The fast bowlers earned generous pace and lift, spinners were getting appreciable turn and bounce from day one, while batsmen who got set were able to hit through the line with confidence.

Then, in the lead up to the Perth Test, the talk out of the West was of a WACA strip which would boast intimidating pace and bounce.

WACA curator Matthew Page told the players to expect a sharp and hostile pitch.

It was not to be. Australia’s first innings slaughter of the Kiwi bowlers suggested the WACA track was a pale comparison of its former ferocious self.

But there still remained the hope that Australia’s taller and far quicker bowlers could wring some life out of the deck.

Even with 196cm-tall Mitchell Starc bowling regularly above 150kmh and, quite remarkably, as high as 160kmh, the ball was dying off the pitch.

It’s shockingly benign state was summed up in the space of five minutes early in yesterday’s first session.

Starc, who was amid a searing spell in which his average speed was 149kmh, earned a genuine edge from the bat of Kane Williamson. It fell comfortably short of first slip.

Then Josh Hazlewood got Ross Taylor to nick through to first slip. Again, the ball unbelievably did not reach the fieldsman on the full.

This is a venue where slips fielders used to routinely take the ball between waist and head high, even on the fifth day. 

Now even 150kmh missiles weren’t able to get an edge to carry. What a joke.

As a Perth born-and-raised lad lucky enough to have been a WACA member for a decade, I spent my childhood entranced by the exciting cricket this pitch fostered.

Rarely were there dull sessions at the WACA. Bowlers got more pace and more bounce than anywhere else, adding a gladiatorial aspect to their battles with the batsmen.

Those strokemakers who got ‘in’, however, often were able to score at a rapid rate thanks to the oh-so-true bounce and swift outfield.

There has been no such contest in this Test, with the bowlers reduced to merely facilitators of the runscoring process.

So poor has the pitch been that it was criticised by a batsman who had just collected a double ton, by another who had cruised to 121, and even the chief executive of Cricket Australia, a man famous for his positive spin on home Tests.

Those three men – David Warner, Usman Khawaja and James Sutherland – seemed almost as upset by the soporific deck as was I and most cricket fans.

Warner said the pitch was “disappointing”, Khawaja rued the fact he expected it to be “quicker” while Sutherland also was underwhelmed.

The WACA already was in a tenuous position following the announcement that major Tests and limited overs matches soon would be shifted to Perth’s new stadium.

But the door was not completely shut on the city’s traditional cricket venue, which would have the chance to host some international fixtures.

This Test match was a prime opportunity for the WACA to serve a startling reminder as to why it remained a wonderful venue.

Instead Matthew Page’s boring pitch must have left many people feeling that perhaps the scrapping of WACA Tests was no great loss.

What a pity.

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