Cape Town – South Africa will lose out fairly soon on the
opportunity to play Test cricket at the famously pace-friendly WACA ground in
Perth, where they have not yet been beaten in three clashes with Australia.
Under a plan confirmed by the Western Australian Cricket
Association on Thursday, the Baggy Greens are scheduled from 2018/19 to switch
venues for major international combat in that city to the 55,000-capacity Perth
Stadium, currently under construction in the Burswood area.
The intention is for major Aussie foes South Africa, India
and England to play them – probably in all formats -- at the new venue, while
less attractive opponents will continue to tackle the host nation at the WACA,
to be reworked into a more “boutique” cricket ground with a reduced capacity of
no more than 15,000.
The switch may not be greeted with great enthusiasm by
connoisseurs of the game worldwide, given the near-unique reputation of the
WACA for thrilling levels of bounce and carry – not something that can be
assured too often elsewhere in the modern game nowadays.
But it is intended that drop-in pitches to be used at Perth
Stadium will have the same soil, clay and grass profile to replicate as closely
as possible conditions at the WACA.
The Proteas have one more Test series in Australia (four
games, according to the ICC’s Future Tours Programme) in October 2016, before
the Perth changes kick in, so there may yet be one further opportunity for the
current crop of SA troops to experience the WACA.
When they first returned from isolation in the early 1990s,
South Africa were kept away from the WACA for Test matches as their Aussie
hosts did not want the dangerous likes of Allan Donald, Brett Schultz, or later
a young Shaun Pollock or Mfuneko Ngam, to potentially revel in the conditions.
But they did begin playing there in December 2005, when
South Africa scrapped out a hard-earned draw through great last-day resilience
from Jacques Rudolph and Justin Kemp after being set almost 500 to win.
On each of the next two occasions, the Proteas have won:
first in December 2008 when second-innings centuries from captain Graeme Smith
and AB de Villiers helped them chase down a record 414 with only four wickets
down – later that summer the tourists clinched their first ever series triumph
On last visit in November 2012, the Proteas thrashed
Australia by 309 runs to ruin Ricky Ponting’s swansong and steal a three-Test
series 1-0 after successive stalemates.
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