WACA pitch may help slow bowlers for Ashes

Published: Thursday, October 19, 2006, 23:53 [IST]
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Perth:Perth's WACA Ground pitch has long been considered the home of fast bowling in world cricket, but its changing nature could force Australia to break with years of tradition and play two leg-spinners for the third Ashes Test in December.

Fast bowling greats Dennis Lillee, Jeff Thomson, Glenn McGrath, Wes Hall, Michael Holding and Curtly Ambrose have savoured the WACA's legendary pace and bounce and made the ground synonymous with express bowling.

As a result, local spinners Ashley Mallett, Terry Jenner and Stuart MacGill were forced to go interstate to look for more suitable decks and subsequently flourished and went on to play Test cricket.

However, the increasingly placid and slow nature of the WACA pitches have forced the West Australian side in the domestic Sheffield Shield competition to turn increasingly to spin in the last two seasons.

The WACA's transformation from fast bowler's paradise to spinning deck culminated in this week's drawn Shield match against Victoria, in which just 18 wickets fell in four days and spin was the favoured bowling option for much of the game.

Few would have ever envisioned spinners being used in tandem as a common practice at the WACA Ground.

Yet by the end of the first session of the game, Victoria's two leg-spinners, champion Shane Warne and Cameron White, were operating at either end.

The home side used left-arm finger spinner Aaron Heal and part-time off-spinner Marcus North for long periods, even giving a third spinner, Adam Voges, a stint at the bowling crease.

WA captain and Australian opener Justin Langer lamented the lack of pace and bounce in the latest WACA pitch.

The neighbouring wicket used in last year's drawn Test against South Africa has been pencilled in for the third Ashes Test, starting on Dec 14, and is expected to provide similar playing conditions.

Langer compared the wicket for the Victorian game to the one for last summer's South Africa Test, and said playing both Warne and MacGill in Perth was shaping as a real option for national selectors.

"You'd have to consider it, definitely," Langer said Thursday. "And that is unusual for here, to even think about it.

"You'd have to consider it if it was as dry for the Test match as it is at the moment."

Langer said the usual assistance for the quick bowlers early in a WACA match was missing.

"You expect as an opening batsman here for the first two sessions of the game to be really hard work," he said.

"You normally have to work your backside off to get through."

Langer noted that the Australians were unable to bowl the South Africans out twice last summer, despite boasting a bowling attack including fast bowlers McGrath and Brett Lee, along with Warne.

To play both Warne and MacGill will require a massive shift in philosophy from the Australian camp, but it is understood the national selectors are considering its likelihood, with selector Merv Hughes an interested onlooker for this week's Shield game.

Warne has traditionally struggled at the WACA, with 37 wickets in 11 Tests, but equalled his best haul at the venue when he took six wickets against South Africa.

MacGill has only played two Tests in Perth, for six wickets, the last coming in Oct 2003, when Warne did not play in either Test.


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