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Vintage WACA pitch awaits weary India

india Updated: Jan 10, 2012 01:35 IST
Rohit Bhaskar
Rohit Bhaskar
Hindustan Times
Rohit Bhaskar

Once the bounciest track in the world, the Western Australia Cricket Association (WACA) ground remarkably lost its famed bounce in the last decade, but it could be coming back to its fiery best if last summer's Ashes Test was any indication.

At the heart of this revival has been a new source of soil for the pitch from a region which is more known for its vineyards. All buzz is about the pitch as India, down and out in the series, gear up for the third Test starting on Friday.

The soil in Perth, capital of Western Australia, was not conducive to fast bowling and originally it was brought from properties around Waroona, a small town south of the city. The soil there had rich clay content, almost 70%, which lent the pitch its signature bounce. However, by the early 2000s the soil lost various properties. Two years back, however, the ground authorities found a new soil source towards the Margaret River, a region famous for its vineyards and which produces over 20% of Australia's premium wine. Everything from Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc to Verdelho is grown in the region which has a climate similar to that of Bordeaux, France in a dry vintage.

WACA curator Cameron Sutherland told HT about how the new source has helped the ground get its famous bite back. "After our original source ran out, we struggled to retain the characteristic bounce of the pitch. Since we found the new soil source near the Margaret River, we are pleased with the results."

In cricketing lore there has been no bouncier pitch than the 22-yard strip at the WACA Ground. The legend grew from the time the first Test was held there in 1970, through the days when Dennis Lillie and Jeff Thomson would routinely bounce the ball over the batsman, even over the wicket-keeper's head. The WACA built its reputation further with spells of fast bowling that have been unmatched elsewhere, none more so than Curtly Ambrose's incredible spell of 7-1 against Australia.

However, in the years following the turn of the millennium the pitch began to favour the batsman more. When India last played here four years ago, and handed the hosts a rare defeat at the venue, the pitch hardly resembled its original self.

However, this time India could be greeted with a pitch where fast bowlers can be menacing.

"We're expecting more pace and bounce than the last time," Sutherland said. "Good cricket wicket last time, but we hope to have maybe an extra 20% pace and bounce."

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