Fast bowling exploits, low totals and whirlwind centuries – WACA Ashes Test’s have had them all.
The WACA test was a shining light in an otherwise abysmal series for Australia. One week after being comprehensively humiliated in Adelaide, Australia batted first and started shakily being reduced to 5/69. Mike Hussey and Brad Haddin reprised a familiar role rescuing the innings and managed half centuries before Mitchell Johnson top scored with 62. After a wayward first test in Brisbane, Johnson had been dropped for the second test in Adelaide to do remedial bowling work in the nets. He returned for the 3rd test in Perth and after his 62 in Australia’s first innings of 268 he blew England away with a withering spell of 4 wickets in 4 overs to finish with 6-38 and bundle England out for 187. Australia’s second innings featured 95 to Shane Watson and 113 to Mike Hussey to set England a target of 391 for victory. Ryan Harris did the damage in the second innings taking 6-47 to knock England over for 123. Harris and Man of the Match, Johnson had taken 18 wickets between them and the Ashes was 1-1 after 3 tests. It was all downhill after this for Australia.
This test match will be remembered for Adam Gilchrist whirlwind century. Australia won the toss, batted and managed a sub par 240 with Mike Hussey holding the innings together with 74 not out batting at his new position at number 4 following the sudden retirement of Damien Matryn. Steve Harmison took 4 wickets but the real destroyer was spinner Monty Panesar with 5 wickets in his first test against Australia. He had only come into the team because of the departure of Ashley Giles from the tour due to his wife’s illness. England replied with 215 thanks to KP’s 70 with Andrew Symmonds, playing as a all rounder batting at Number 6 claiming 2/8 off 4 overs. In it’s second innings Australia lost Justin Langer first ball but made an emphatic statement: Matthew Hayden made 92, Ponting 75, Hussey 103, Clarke 79*, then Adam Gilchrist strode to the crease. What happened next was some of the cleanest hitting ever seen and the second quickest century in test cricket. Taking just 57 balls (1 more than Viv Richard’s record) Gilchrist savaged all the England bowlers to put Australia in a commanding position. Set 557 to win England manged 353 with Alistair Cook, in a portent of series to come, scoring 116 and Ian Bell 87. At the opposite end of the spectrum Papua New Guinea born England wicket keeper, Geriant Jones, recorded a pair of ducks and was promptly dropped ending his Test career. After the humiliation of losing the Ashes in England in 2005, Australia had won back the Ashes in 3 tests.
A 3 day test that started with England being bowled out for 185 shortly after tea on Day 1. Robert Key top scored with 47 before finding an unusual way to be dismissed – bowled by the gentle medium pace of Damien Martyn, just his second test wicket. Australia replied with 456 with surprisingly no individual centuries but half centuries to Ponting, Martyn and Steve Waugh. Craig White was the best of England bowlers with a 5 wicket haul. England’s second innings started disastrously with the side slumping to 4/34 before a pair of 60’s to Nasser Hussain and Alec Stewart restored some credibility. The lowlight of the third and final day was a bouncer from Brett Lee that felled England bowler Alex Tudor. Struck in the head, Tudor had to be taken off the ground by stretcher and retired hurt. Australia won by an innings and 48 runs and had retained the Ashes after 3 test wins in the first 3 tests.
The WACA hosted the second test of the 1998/99 series and unusually it started on a Saturday. Whatever the day of the week it didn’t help England as they were blown away for 112 in just 39 overs. Damien Fleming was the chief destroyer with 5/46 and by the end of Day 1 Australia were in front at 3/150. Australia’s innings fell away on Day 2 for the side to be all out for 240 with debutante Alex Tudor taking 4 wickets. England’s reply started disastrously slumping to 3/15 and 5/67 before Mark Ramprakash and Graeme Hick steadied the ship. In a testament to the truncated nature of this 2 and a half day test, Hick top scored for the test with 68 made off just 73 balls. England threatened to set Australia a challenging 4th innings chase but Jason Gillespie had other ideas blowing away the tail taking the last 5 wickets. Chasing just 64 for victory Australia wobbled before the Waugh twins carried them to victory. Damien Fleming with 9 wickets was the Man of the Match and Australia led the Ashes 1-0 after 2 tests.
The WACA test was the 5th of the 1994/95 series, held in the first week of February. Australia had retained the Ashes after 3 tests but lost the 4th test the week before in Adelaide. In Perth the Australian’s struck back hard. . Australia batted first and passed 400 thanks to 124 to Michael Slater and 99 not out to Steve Waugh. Waugh literally ran out of partners before he could reach his century. In a strange twist Number 11 Craig McDermott had strained his back and was batting with a runner, Mark Waugh. ‘Junior’ set off for an improbable single and was run out leaving brother Steve stranded on 99. England replied with 295 thanks to a polished 123 to Graham Thorpe. Local WA fast bowler, Jo Angel, playing one of his handful of tests took 3 wickets. Australia’s second innings was highlighted by 115 to Greg Blewett who became just the third Australian to make centuries in his first two test matches. Chasing an unlikely 552 for victory England slumped to 6/27 before being bowled out for 123 with Craig McDermott, who had recovered from his back strain, taking 6/38. Australia won the series 3-1 with Steve Waugh awarded Man of the Match for his 99 and 80 and Craig McDermott was Man of the Series for his 32 wickets. England stalwarts Graham Gooch and Mike Gatting fare welled test cricket after this match.