The Western Australian Cricket Association ground, more simply and affectionately known as the WACA, started its international career much later than the other mainland cricket grounds.
But its first decade was certainly probably more entertaining and interesting than the first decade of most other grounds around the world.
I use the word ‘internationals’ because this list contains a match against a Rest of the World XI, which was absorbing in itself as we shall see.
So without any further ado, let’s rewind the clock.
1. Dec 1970, vs England, second test of six.
Australia won the toss and skipper Bill Lawry sent-in England. England 397 & 6 (dec)-287; Australia 440 & 3-100. Match drawn.
Played in brilliant sunshine and a wonderful carnival atmosphere, this inaugural test will be remembered for a gutsy but elegant century on debut by Greg Chappell (108). Ian Redpath also hit his highest and most valuable century (171) and the pair added 219 for the 6th wicket after Australia had slumped to 5-107.
Chappell began his test career at no.7 as a batting all-rounder. Two Englishmen also scored centuries, Brian Luckhurst with 131 in the first innings and John Edrich with 115 not out in the second.
2. Dec 1971, vs Rest of the World XI, second international of five.
Australia 349; ROTW 59 & 279. Australia won by an innings & 11 runs.
The WACA was now the bouncing track it would become known as for the next several decades. Australia’s innings occupied the whole first day and was underpinned by a rollicking century from Doug Walters (125). The next day could be described as the “bowling performance heard around the world.”
Dennis Lillee took career best first-class bowling figures of 8-29 off 7.1 overs (8-ball), decimating a world class batting line-up: Sunil Gavaskar (Ind), Farokh Engineer (Ind-wk), Rohan Kanhai (WI), Zaheer Abbas (Pak), Clive Lloyd (WI), Gary Sobers (WI), Tony Greig (Eng), Richard Hutton (Eng) and Intikhab Alam (Pak).
In the second innings, Kanhai hit a fighting century, while Lillee captured 4-63 to finish with match figures of 12-92. South African opener Hylton Ackerman had pulled out of this match injured, while the Pollock brothers – Grame and Peter – didn’t arrive until the 3rd international.
3. Dec 1974, vs England, second test of six.
Captain Ian Chappell sent-in England. England 208 & 293; Australia 481 & 1-23. Australia won by 9 wickets.
This match saw Jeff Thomson continue to terrorise England’s batsmen. After taking 9 wickets in the 1st test, Thommo added another seven here, including 5-93 in the 2nd innings. The other remarkable feature was another sparkling century from Doug Walters (103).
On the very last ball of the second day, Walters brought up his century, plus an even 100 in the last session, by clubbing Bob Willis to the mid-wicket boundary.
Also of note in this match was the extraordinary courage displayed by veteran English batsman Colin Cowdrey (then 42 years old).
Barely off the plane having arrived to stiffen up a mounting injury toll amongst the batsmen, Cowdrey displayed enormous courage against the thunderbolts of Lillee and Thomson, this being the days before helmets and massive padding.
Cowdrey had only his bat, his gloves, his groin box, his technique, his wits and his courage to protect him.
4. Dec 1975, vs West Indies, second test of six. Australia 329 & 169; West Indies 585. West Indies won by an innings & 87 runs.
Again played in wonderful sunshine and a festival atmosphere, this match was dominated by a buccaneering, cutless-wielding century from opener Roy Fredericks, who hit 169 off 145 balls. At the time, it was the second fastest century in history, reached off 71 balls. It still remains the seventh fastest today.
Fredericks punished a truly world class Australian attack pace attack of Lillee, Thomson, Max Walker, Gary Gilmour plus spinner Ashley Mallett.
Assisting Fredericks was skipper Clive Lloyd with 149. Earlier in Australia’s 1st innings, Ian Chappell had hit a more sedate 156. Windies paceman Andy Roberts rounded off proceedings by finishing the Aussies off in their 2nd innings with 7-54 and 9-119 for the match.
The massive win probably did the Windies no favours. Believing the way to beat the Aussies was to attack their fast bowlers, their batting became too ragged and Australia went on to win the series easily by 5-1.
5. Dec 1977, vs India, second test of five.
India 402 & 9 (dec)-330; Australia 394 & 8-342. Australia won by 2 wickets.
The feature of this test was a wonderful return century by Australian skipper Bobby Simpson (176) in the 1st innings and a thumping century in the 2nd innings by night watchman spinner Tony Mann (105). These were the days of World Series Cricket (WSC) and a divided cricket community. Simpson returned to captain Australia after an absense of 10 years. In this innings, he demonstrated he had lost of none of his skill, concentration and endurance.
Jeff Thomson, denied the opportunity to play WSC because of contractual obligations, took 4-101 in India’s 1st innings, while Indian captain Bishen Bedi took five wickets in each innings for a match haul of 10-194. In India’s 2nd innings, Gavaskar hit his 2nd of three centuries (113) in successive tests, while Mohinder Amarnath hit an even 100 to go with his first innings 90.
6. Dec 1978, vs England, second test of six.
England 309 & 208; Australia 190 & 161. England won by 166 runs.
Public opinion was now beginning to turn against the establishment and towards WSC. Which was probably just as well, because this young and inexperienced ACB XI was no match for England’s seasoned professionals. The match featured an elegant century by England’s young rising star David Gower (102), supported by the old warhorse Geoff Boycott (77).
Bowlers dominated this test. Aussie firebrand Rodney Hogg took five wickets in each innings and match figures of 10-122. For England Willis captured six wickets for the match and Peter Lever five.
7. March 1979, vs Pakistan, second test of two.
Debutant captain Kim Hughes sent-in Pakistan. Pakistan 277 & 285; Australia 327 & 3-236. Australia won by 7 wickets.
This match, indeed the entire two-test series, was full of ill-tempered controversy. Australia’s young team won just their second of eight domestic tests. But this time they beat a Pakistan team full of their WSC stars. Was match-fixing in back then?
Each Pakistan innings was underpinned by a brilliant lone and undefeated century – Javed Miandad in the first (129) and Asif Iqbal in the second (134). For Australia Allan Border produced a double of 85 and 66 not out, while Rick Darling hit 75 and 79. Paceman Alan Hurst, often in Hogg’s shadow during the summer, finished this test with 9-155, including 5-94 in the 2nd dig.
The match featured two petulant displays. Hurst ran out Pakistan’s Sikander Bakht ‘Mankad-style’, while Sarfraz Nawaz successfully appealed for ‘handled ball’ against Andrew Hilditch. This being only the second time in test cricket a player was out handled ball.
8. Dec 1979, vs England, first test of three.
Australia 244 & 337; England 228 & 215. Australia won by 138 runs.
WSC was over and both sides were now able to play as close to their best combinations as possible. Greg Chappell was once again Aussie skipper. The huge talking point of this test was Dennis Lillee’s attempt to introduce an aluminum bat. After two shots and 15 odd minutes of heated argument, Lillee finally accepted to continue with a willow bat. He admitted later it had been a publicity stunt.
Although the test never rose to great heights, it featured some personal triumphs and the odd heartbreak. Veteran Aussie swing bowler Geoff Dymock captured nine wickets (including 6-34) and Lillee six for the test. Border hit the only century of the test with 115 in the 2nd dig. The test featured two 99s – Kim Hughes in Australia’s 1st innings and Boycott in England’s 2nd innings. Boycott carried his bat and was left stranded one short of a hundred when the last wicket fell.
English all-rounder Ian Botham was adjudged man of the match, capturing 6-78 and 5-98 for match figures of 11-174.
My personal experiences are as follows. My family lived in PNG up until the mid-1970s. In the early 70s I would have just returned home from boarding school in Sydney. When the tests were on I would take our AWA Zenith radio out onto the front verandah with a magnificent vista of downtown Port Moresby and Fairfax Harbour and listen to Alan McGilvray and his cohorts via Radio Australia.
There was no instant news internet back then, kiddies.
In the summer of 1974, having completed my HSC, I headed to the far south coast of NSW to work for a schoolmate’s dad who had a contracting business in several different endeavours – timber clearing and cutting, road works and haulage, etc. At the time of the Perth test, we were working on widening the approaches to a bridge outside Bombala. The days were long and hot; the work was constant and monotonous.
The first beer back at the Bombala hotel never touched the sides! Because of the time difference, we were always able to watch the second and third sessions of play. Back then schooners cost just 15 cents, repeat 15 cents! In the morning we would cross the road to the butcher for a rump steak to eat that evening. It was at least an inch (2.5 cms) thick and covered the whole of the plate. And it cost just 20 cents, repeat 20 cents!
By the mid-70s my family was living permanently in Sydney and I started rowing surfboats in the summer. One of the rich memories back then was walking along the beach at a surf carnival in between races and marveling (among other things) at the fact that 9 out of every 10 transistor radios was tuned in to the cricket test, if there was one on that particular weekend.
Those were the days my friends, we thought they’d never end…