The pitch at the WACA is regarded as one of the quickest and bounciest in the world, the outfield is also exceptionally fast. These characteristics, in combination with the afternoon sea-breezes which regularly pass the ground (the Fremantle Doctor), have historically made the ground an attractive place for pace and swing bowlers. The ground has seen some very fast scoring – as at December 2012, four of the seven fastest Test centuries had been scored at the WACA.
An early coloured image of the Association ground in about 1910, looking north, with a large crowd watching a game in progress. Note the original 1890s stand is evidently packed.
William Henry Wise, a gardener who came to WA from England in 1880, laid the first turf wicket at the WACA. Wise was personal gardener to Sir George Shenton, of Crawley. In addition to his work at the WACA Ground, he laid the first Tennis Court on the Esplanade Perth W.A.
The Western Australian Cricket Association was officially established on 25 November 1885 under the Presidency of JCH James. In 1893, the WACA ground was officially opened, occupying a site of old swamp land to the east of the city. The Association has a 999-year lease over the land (which expires in 2888). The long term of the lease means that, effectively, the Association has freehold title (save that it cannot divest itself of any part of the land without the state government's consent). Originally, the title covered 29 acres (117,000 m²), and took in what is now Gloucester Park. However, the latter part of the land was divested to the Trotting Association in the early 1920s. In a curious twist, between 1977 and 1979, (then-rebel) World Series Cricket matches were played at Gloucester Park because the Kerry Packer-led organisation was not granted access to the WACA.
The first match played on the turf wickets took place in February 1894. However, difficulties encountered in transporting teams to Western Australia meant that the ground was not part of Australia's main cricket community for many years. Even with the building of a transcontinental railway, the trip from the eastern states still took several days. It took the introduction of scheduled flights to Western Australia to make the WACA readily accessible to interstate or overseas teams.
James Gardiner, president of the WACA for three terms between 1897 and 1924, proposed the adoption of 'electorate' cricket (as it was first known) whereby teams were established on a district basis for competition. He also inaugurated Country Week cricket, during which country teams compete against each other. In 1907, the WACA ground was under threat of being controlled by the Perth City Council to recover debts. Gardiner led the bid to save the ground and secured a government loan. Further financial difficulties led Gardiner to again raise funds and donations with a cricket match by the Australian XI team in 1912.
The WACA scoreboard at its opening in December 1953
The WACA Scoreboard today
The WACA ground, like many stadiums of its era, has undergone various re-developments. The most notable are:
The building, in 1895, of the first grandstand; seating 500 people and incorporating dressing rooms, a dining room, bathrooms, members’ rooms and bars.
In 1931 the Farley Stand was opened, named after W.J. Farley, the Association President from 1915–1916 to 1916–17 and Secretary from 1917–1918 to 1928–1929.
In 1948 the scoreboard at the WACA was destroyed by a storm. In 1954 a replacement scoreboard was built, a donation from the North West Murchison Cricket Association. This, now iconic, scoreboard remains in operation.
In the 1960s the Players Pavilion was built to provide facilities for the players and the WACA administration. Seating was later added to provide additional seating, initially to accommodate the first Test Match to be played at the WACA (Australia v England in 1970).
Also to welcome Test cricket to the WACA, 1970 saw the opening of the "Test Stand". It was later renamed the Inverarity Stand, after Western Australian, South Australian and Australian player John Inverarity.
From 1984 to 1988 the WACA underwent major renovations, including a realignment and a complete resurfacing of the ground and the construction of new terracing and seating in the outer. Also built were the three tiered Prindiville grandstand and two tiered Lillee-Marsh grandstand, which increased the ground's seating capacity. Six large light towers were also installed in 1986 at a cost of $4.2 million, allowing for night time sports such as day-night cricket matches to be played at the ground. An icon of the WACA, the floodlights are 70 metres high and cost $600 per hour to run.
The WACA facing north, showing the Inverarity Stand (left) and the Prindiville Stand (right)
These redevelopments also made the venue an attractive venue for sports other than cricket, and it was during the late 1980s and early 1990s that the ground saw its greatest use as a multi-sports venue. From 1987 to 2000, the ground was used by the West Coast Eagles, and from 1995 by the Fremantle Dockers, both Perth-based AFL teams. 72 AFL matches were held at the ground during this time. From 1995 to 1997 the WACA also served as the home ground for the Western Redsrugby league team. In the late 1990s the ground played host to the Perth Heat in the former Australian Baseball League (1989-1999).
However, for various reasons these sports moved away from the WACA (in the case of night football, to Subiaco Oval), and as a consequence the WACA was again redeveloped in 2002. The capacity of the ground was reduced to around 20,000 and the dimensions of the playing arena were also decreased by a total of 31 metres at the eastern and western boundaries, meaning Australian rules football could no longer be played at the ground. From time to time, temporary stands are used to boosts the ground's capacity to 24,500.
The WACA Museum (located on-site) features exhibits about Western Australian cricket.
On 13 April 2007 the Western Australian Cricket Association announced a $250m redevelopment of the stadium. Seating capacity was to be increased, with residential and commercial buildings built in the surrounding areas. The project was to be done in partnership with Ascot Capital Limited with a three- to four-year time frame. WACA members gave final approval for the project in July 2010 and construction was expected to commence in March 2011. However, by November 2011 work on the redevelopment had still yet to commence, and it was reported that delays could continue for years. Although the project received finance, tax office and members approval, adverse market conditions were believed to make the project unfeasible at present. The redevelopment was also the subject of a dispute between the WACA and the Australian Cricketers Association, with the players' union seeking 26 per cent of the value of the project.
In November 2012 the WACA and property developer Ascot Capital Limited commenced selling 137 apartments in "The Gardens", a planned 10-storey residential complex to be located on the western boundary line of the ground. Construction of The Gardens was expected to commence mid-2013 and be completed by mid-2015. The agreement between the WACA and Ascot Capital would have seen new northern grandstands, an increase in ground capacity and a long term revenue stream. However, in December 2013 the WACA has released a statement that it had abandoned the so-called Gardens Development because it was unable to achieve the pre-sales target in order to finance the project.
In September 2013 Cricket Australia announced that the WACA ground would not host a Test match in the 2014/2015 season, a decision which would leave Perth without a summer test match for the first time in nearly 40 years. Cricket Australia said the WACA ground requires significant improvements, given it has the smallest capacity of the five mainland capital city venues, and that it would welcome major, international matches being played at Perth's new 60,000 seat stadium.
The first first-class match is played on the ground between Western Australia and South Australia between 3 and 6 April 1899. South Australia was victorious, winning by 4 wickets.
Donald Bradman played at the ground for the first time and attracted a crowd in excess of 20,000 in 1932.
In October 1967, Western Australia's Ian Brayshaw collected 10 for 44 against Victoria in Victoria's first innings (Scorecard), the second best bowling figures in an innings in Sheffield Shield history.
In December 1975 West Indian Roy Fredericks scored a century in just 71 balls against Australia, which was at the time the second fastest century (in terms of balls faced) in Test history. Fredericks went on to score 169, which is the record for the highest score at the WACA by an overseas player (Scorecard).
In the semi final of the 1976/77 Gillette Cup domestic one day competition, which became known as the "Miracle Match", Western Australia was bowled out by Queensland for 77, before dismissing Queensland for 62 to win the match.(Scorecard).
In 1977–1978, the Domestic One-Day Final was played at the WACA for the first time, with Western Australia defeating Tasmania.
On the last day of a Test match in March 1979, Pakistani tailender Sikander Bakht was Mankaded by Australia's Alan Hurst to end Pakistan's innings. Later in the day, Australian Andrew Hilditch was dismissed handled the ball after he interrupted a throw from mid-on and passed the ball to the bowler Sarfraz Nawaz, who appealed. Both dismissals were considered to have been against the spirit of cricket, and Nawaz' appeal was considered to have been retribution for Bakht's Mankading. (Scorecard).
In December 1979, on the second day of the Test Match between Australia and England, Dennis Lillee came out to bat with a cricket bat made from aluminium, known as a ComBat, rather than the traditional willow. After four deliveries and three runs, England captain Mike Brearley complained it was damaging the ball. Play was held up for ten minutes as the umpires persuaded Lillee to change to a wooden bat (Video). In the same match, Ian Botham took 11 for 176 (6 for 78 and 5 for 98), which were his best figures against Australia (Scorecard).
On 9 December 1980, a first one-day international match was played at the ground for the first time, between India and New Zealand, which India won by 5 runs (Scorecard).
In a 1981 incident described by Wisden Cricketers' Almanack as "one of the most undignified incidents in Test history", Dennis Lillee and Pakistani batsman Javed Miandad clashed after the two collided with each other on the pitch. After colliding, Lillee turned and kicked Miandad from behind; Miandad lifted his bat above his head as if to strike Lillee and Lillee backed off. The umpire Tony Crafter stepped in to separate the two. Lillee was fined and suspended for two matches – (Video, Scorecard).
Terry Alderman suffered a serious shoulder injury in 1982/1983 while tackling an English ground invader in the Test match against England. Greg Chappell led his team off the ground for 14 minutes and 26 arrests were made (Video, Scorecard).
In 1984 the record one day cricket match crowd at WACA Ground of 27,057 was recorded, for the game contested by Australia and the West Indies.(Scorecard).
In 1986 Western Australia played Victoria in a McDonald's Cup fixture as the ground's first cricket match under lights.
Merv Hughes took a hat trick in the Test against the West Indies in 1988/1989, and went on to take 8–87 in the innings. He ended up with 13–217 for the match, the most wickets taken at the ground in a Test match. In the same Test, Australian tail-end batsman Geoff Lawson had his jaw broken by a Curtly Ambrose bouncer (Scorecard).
New Zealander Mark Greatbatch scored 146 not out off 485 balls against Australia in November 1989. The match was drawn. Greatbatch was at the crease for almost 11 hours over two days, and saved New Zealand from defeat (Scorecard).
Geoff Marsh scored 355* for Western Australia v South Australia in December 1989 (Scorecard) This is the highest ever individual score at the ground by a Western Australian and the seventh highest score in Sheffield Shield history. During this innings, Marsh shared a 1st wicket partnership of 431 with Mike Veletta, the highest ever first wicket partnership in interstate cricket.
Steve Waugh and Mark Waugh put on a partnership of 464* for New South Wales against Western Australia in 1990,(Scorecard), which is the highest partnership in Sheffield Shield history.
On 30 January 1993, Curtly Ambrose had a stunning spell of 7–1 (eventually 7/25) as Australia crashed from 3–85 to 119 all out (Scorecard).
In 1995, watched by a record 24,392, the Western Reds Rugby League team made its debut in ARL competition, defeating St George 28–16.
The Western Warriors defeated the Queensland Bulls in the final of the 1999/2000 Australian one day domestic competition. WA batted first and made 301. Queensland was in a comfortable position at 1/202 in the 30th over, only to collapse to be all out for 256 in the 46th over.
In February 2001, Australia's Damien Martyn scored 144* against Zimbabwe in a one-day international, the highest ODI score for an individual at the ground.
Australia's Matthew Hayden scored a then Test-record 380 against Zimbabwe in 2003, surpassing Brian Lara's world record highest score of 375. Australia ended declaring its innings at 735–6, the highest ever team total compiled at the ground in Tests (Scorecard).
In 2004, at the age of 34, Glenn McGrath took eight wickets for 24 runs against Pakistan, his best Test bowling figures, and the best ever Test bowling figures at the WACA (Scorecard).
On 12 January 2005, the WACA hosted Australia's first Twenty20 match, played between the Western Warriors and the Victorian Bushrangers. It drew a sellout crowd of 20,700 – the largest seen at the ground for many years.
Chris Rogers and Marcus North put on a partnership of 459, Western Australia v Victoria, in October 2006 (Scorecard). This is the third highest partnership and highest partnership for the third wicket in Sheffield Shield history. Rogers' score of 279 was at the time the second highest ever by a West Australian, behind the 355* that Geoff Marsh scored at the same ground in December 1989.
India defeated Australia by 72 runs to end Australia's record-equaling Test match winning streak of 16 consecutive wins, in January 2008 (Scorecard).
South Africa defeated Australia by six wickets in a Test match in December 2008, achieving the second-highest successful run chase in Test history when they reached the victory target of 414 late in the second session on the final day, for the loss of just four wickets.
During a one-day international between Australia and Pakistan in January 2010, Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi was captured by television cameras making two solid biting motions into the ball; he was suspended for two matches after pleading guilty to ball tampering. In the same game, Pakistan player Khalid Latif was crash-tackled to the ground by a spectator who had run onto the ground to reach the cricketer, later leading to intense scrutiny of the WACA's security measures.
The Guinness World Record for the highest basketball shot in the world was thrown from one of the four flood-light towers at the WACA (Video).