The first Test match at the WACA Ground was held in March 1958 when Australia Women played England Women. This was years after the Ground played host to the first ever women's international cricket match in 1934 between the WA Women and England Women.
Former Australian cricketer and journalist Richard Whitington referred to the historic 1970 Perth Test as ‘The miracle of Perth - intended to pay tribute to the people of Western Australia and their efforts to stage a worthy inaugural match…’
In August 1968 an application for a Perth Test match during the forthcoming 1970-71 England tour to Australia was submitted to the Australian Board of Control for International Cricket. State politicians including the Premier of Western Australia, David Brand and Lord Mayor of Perth, Thomas Wardle, led a Citizen’s Committee to secure the Test match.
The State Government and Perth City Council contributed funding and a Perth Test Match Council was convened to raise the balance of the $400,000 required to improve facilities at the WACA Ground, including the construction of a new public Test Match stand, later renamed The Inverarity Stand.
Under the leadership of WACA Secretary Les Truman a report of the 1962 Perth Commonwealth Games was adapted as a blueprint for the Perth Test Match. The fundraising appeal was facilitated by Ross Elliott Media Services and players Norm O’Neill, Peter Loader and Keith Slater travelled extensively throughout Country WA for the cause.
Fundraising ideas included farmer’s pledging crops, cattle and sheep and even wood. One cricket association built a house and donated the profits to the appeal. WA was in the midst of a mining boom and the entire community reacted with what was described as ‘determined enthusiasm.’
On the field WA had become a force to be reckoned with in Australian Cricket, winning the 1967-68 Sheffield Shield competition, their second championship but first after gaining Full Status in the Sheffield Shield competition in the 1956-57 season.
WA joined the competition in 1947-48, winning the Sheffield Shield in their debut season when participation was only granted under a restricted program and at significant financial cost. WA players were also seen as worthy of Test selection with John Rutherford selected for the 1956 Tour to England and others followed including Graham McKenzie’s selection in 1961.
This period also coincided with the development of the famous world-class fast and bouncy WACA wicket. Roy Abbott began at the WACA in 1946 and was Head Curator from 1951 to 1980. He was determined to see a Test match in Perth and wrote “the 1970 Test match was the highlight of my career at the WACA… and the culmination of my efforts over the years to prove that the wickets in Perth would stand up to a five-day Test match.”
And stand up they did! More than nine-thousand people turned up to see the fifth day’s play, taking the total attendance to 84,142 (a ground record until 2006) and gate receipts of more than $110,000, proving the Test match a financial success.
Cricket lovers paid $15 for a Reserve Seat, $3 for a daily ticket and you could sit on the grass inside the boundary for $1, children and pensioners only paid 50 cents. To promote the historic Test match the Marylebone Cricket Club team played WA early December in Perth and then travelled to Narrogin to play a WA Country XI. This team featured Terry (Tuck) Waldron, current Chair of the WACA Board, who scored 58 not out. Two days later the Perth Test match began.
Champion WA pace bowler Graham McKenzie, playing in his first Test match at home since his Test debut in 1961, bowled the historic first ball from the Farley Stand member’s end into the breeze to Geoff Boycott, his fourth delivery being gloved by his teammate wicket-keeper Rod Marsh playing in only his second Test match.
Graham McKenzie took 4-66 first innings wickets in 31.4 overs all bowled, including Brian Luckhurst (131) and England captain Ray Illingworth (34). His figures could have been better, but Australia dropped five first innings catches.
Rod Marsh hit 44 first innings runs, his highest Test score to date. The scoring rate was painfully slow and both sides played out the match fearful of winning or losing.
In the second innings England’s formidable fast bowler John Snow had Australia reeling at 3-17 and at 5-107 Australia were in trouble. A sixth wicket partnership by Ian Redpath (171) and Greg Chappell (108), a Test century on debut which caused a celebratory crowd pitch invasion, edged Australia to a 43-run first innings lead.
The Test match ultimately led to a draw with commentators lamenting decisions by selectors, captains and the performance of the players.
We commemorate the historic 1970 Test match and salute the contribution of all Western Australians in making this dream come true and establishing Perth as a future Test match venue.
WACA GROUND IMPROVEMENT PROJECT
The WACA Ground Improvement Project will transform the Ground into a boutique sporting venue that maintains ICC Accreditation as an International Cricket Venue and complements Optus Stadium, with a permanent capacity of 10,000 which can be increased to 15,000 with a temporary overlay.
The WACA remains committed to raising another $10 million towards the Project through the WA Cricket Foundation, in addition to the $4 million funding commitment from Cricket Australia that has been secured.