As social media, water coolers, television and computer screens, barbecues and of course the Australian cricket-loving community prepare for the start of an International summer once again, I have chosen to take a look back at some of the more recent history between the Australians and South Africans at the WACA.
I was intrigued by the most recent results, of which there have been three Tests played between the sides in the past 11 years at the venue, noting that the visitors have been successful in Perth over this period.
This knowledge probably means little when the first ball is bowled on Thursday, however you can’t help but wonder what a mental edge, even just slightly, it may provide the Proteas. These matches too culminate some of the most memorable moments in Test cricket from the last two decades.
Let’s cast proceedings back to December 2005, shall we. John Howard is Prime Minister, the MCG is in the final stages of its re-construction, YouTube has exploded onto the scene only months earlier, and Australia is taking on South Africa in the first Test of the series at the WACA.
This closely fought draw treated cricketing faithful to some brilliant individual efforts from both teams. Brad Hodge will forever go down as one of the more controversial and unlucky Australian players of this era, and it was here where he announced himself to the big stage scoring a double-century.
His innings of 203 was bettered only months later, when Jason Gillespie thought, anything you can do Brad, I can do better. The first innings of this match remained very tight before Hodge’s dominance helped set up a 490-run advantage.
While South Africa were never likely to chase the runs, they were able to stave off the Australians and hold out for an incredible draw, lasting 126 overs, a large portion of which thanks to batsman Jacques Rudolph, who compiled an unbeaten 102 across seven hours of batting.
That was 11 years ago, and no player from that particular match will be seen in this series. Had it not have been for AB de Villiers unfortunate injury, he would have been the sole member.
Three years on and the WACA once again saw an unbelievable Test match between the sides. What a phenomenal game of cricket. The home side weren’t able to capitalise on their solid start and first innings lead, as their target of 414 set for the South Africans wasn’t enough, the Proteas running the total down with still six wickets to spare.
Crushing centuries from then captain Graeme Smith and de Villiers aided their chances, and a classy unbeaten half-century from JP Duminy on debut put the finishing touches on a historic run-chase.
De Villiers would go on to win the man of the match award in a most unlikely victory, where the final target of 414 was just five runs short of the all-time greatest fourth innings run chase completed by the West Indies, which was funnily enough also against Australia. This win gave South Africa the first match of the series, and they would go on to win the following Test on Boxing Day to sew up a series win.
Fast forward four more years and again the South Africans were able to defeat Australia in Perth. This match was significant for a lot of reasons. The first of which it was the last Test appearance for Ricky Ponting – unfortunately the champion only managed scores of 4 and 8 in his last outings.
The door had closed for Ponting but in the same match it had opened for John Hastings and Dean Elgar for Australia and South Africa respectively. Shane Watson had returned, replacing the unsuccessful Rob Quiney – who made the best 9 you will ever see (I promise) in Brisbane a few weeks before.
This landmark Test began really well for the Aussies who had South Africa reeling at 6 for 75 on the first morning. They would go on to cobble together 225 before rattling the Aussies for just 163 in response – an important factor being the magnificent swing bowling display from Dale Steyn, who finished the match with eight scalps.
At this point the visiting batsmen had clicked again, and piled on a mountain of runs; big centuries to Amla (196) and de Villiers (169) ensured Michael Clarke’s side were set an insurmountable 632 in the fourth innings.
If you hadn’t realised it from reading above, de Villiers loves batting in Perth, which is why it is such a shame he isn’t a part of this tour. I do know however that if I was Justin Langer and the Perth Scorchers think tank, I would be contacting AB in search of a signature.
Mitchell Starc was Australia’s best performer in this heavy defeat, taking eight wickets in total and making a valuable 68 on the final day, however it was never going to be enough as Australia fell 309 runs short. The ledger was squared at 0-0 heading in, so this big win was all the South Africans needed to claim the series.
A lot of key moments and milestones out of the most recent Perth duels between two passionate and dominant cricketing sides, and this summer’s three-match contest should be no different.
Once again we can expect to see the fine art of swing bowling at tremendous pace displayed by both Steyn and Starc respectively; some would argue they both hold a key to the outcome of this series.
The thought of another tense drawn match or an enormous fourth-innings run chase once again is exciting too. Sadly, the only ingredient missing is the unbelievable skill of AB de Villiers with blade in hand.
Enjoy the upcoming series, and summer too for that matter – it should be a cracker.