Dave Tickner expects David Warner to shine in the third Test at a legendary venue where the demons now exist only in English minds.
The third Ashes Test is a tale of two WACAs.
One of these grounds is the fearsome place where English cricketing hopes go to die, a place where they have won only once and lost their last seven by nine wickets, 329 runs, seven wickets, an innings and 48 runs, 206 runs, 267 runs, and 150 runs, a venue where fast bowlers rule and batsmen cower in their crease.
The other is a batting paradise where Australia just can’t take 20 wickets, where they have lost four times in the last nine Tests since. Where South Africa chased down 414 with only four wickets down and have also prevailed by 309 and 177 runs, and where India rode runs from Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman and wickets from, err, Irfan Pathan and RP Singh to a 72-run victory in 2008.
In 2015 the pitch was so flat that Mitchell Johnson retired from Test cricket after a draw against New Zealand in a game of six individual hundreds, two of which were doubles as David Warner plundered 253 only to be upstaged by Ross Taylor’s 290.
The fact is that since being relaid in 2000 and again in 2008, the WACA pitch’s demons now exist solely in batsman’s heads. And by that we really mean solely in English batsmen’s heads. Everyone else has worked it out.
Even in crushing defeat, England should still have picked up clues last year. They made over 600 runs in Perth across both innings four years ago, 120 more than they made anywhere else. Ben Stokes made the only England century of the series in that game.
No, there is nothing to fear from the WACA pitch. But that doesn’t mean we can ignore the fact England think there is. That these issues exist solely in English heads doesn’t make them irrelevant. These are the same English heads that have allowed themselves to be convinced that Starc, Hazlewood and Cummins is the equal of 2013’s Johnson, Harris and Siddle when it is nothing of the kind.
On the one hand, Australia’s recent record here should make them unbackable at odds around 1/2. On the other, England’s overall record here and a sense that here above all other venues they are beaten before they get on the park means they can’t be followed at 4/1. If pushed, you’d have to go for the Aussies.
One man who does merit confident support here is Aussie opener David Warner. England have just about kept a leash on the Australian they despise above all others during the series so far, his only major contribution coming when the game was already over in Brisbane. But the WACA is his playground. He averages 89.22 in Tests here, with a strike-rate over 90.
His career Test innings here reads 180, 13, 29, 60, 112, 253, 24, 97 and 35. With the exception of that 13 back in 2012, all those innings have a strike-rate above 77. He’s top scored in four of those nine innings, with all three centuries and the 97 obliging.
His last two first-innings at this ground have been top-scoring efforts, and at 10/3 he's worth backing to make it three in a row.
Warner’s also 8/1 to be named man of the match; given the eye-catchingly explosive nature of his contributions here to date, that’s another one that looks worth an interest. He’s only been man of the match once in his five matches here, but even on that small sample he’s ahead of the odds and it’s hard to see, for example, the English Ross Taylor who might deny him. If Warner does go big, the only threat will come from his own bowlers, who should be capable of sharing the wickets around sufficiently to keep him ahead.
In the last five years here there have been individual scores of 290, 253, 196, 180, 169 and 166, so the 5/6 available for the highest individual score to be 147.5 or higher also looks perfectly fair.
In both Tests so far, in less favourable batting conditions, Australians have been left not out with that target in sight, while even a rogue England 150 couldn’t be ruled out here given the speed that runs tend to come; the pitch may not be as fearsomely quick as it once was, but the outfield still is.
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Posted at 1615 GMT on 12/12/17.