The West Test Preview: Australia’s summer of cricket starts in Perth this Thursday!

The West Test Preview Mitch Marsh
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Perth will host the opening Test of the summer starting Thursday, with Optus Stadium taking on a brand-new look with a grass bank and terrace on the ‘West Test Hill’ providing a new novelty.

That’s all part of the WACA’s bid to revive the Perth Test with crowds falling in recent times, with only 42,517 fans turning out across five days in last year’s match against the West Indies.

The game has been rebadged the ‘West Test’ to differentiate itself, like the Sydney Pink Test, MCG Boxing Day Test and Adelaide’s day-night Test have successfully done.

Who’s playing?

Australia are up against Pakistan, who are ranked sixth on the ICC Test rankings. The Aussies are the reigning ICC Test Championship winners and recent 50-over World Cup winners. Plus we’re always formidable on home turf, so we’re the red hot favourites. The usual suspects will be in action for Australia, including captain Pat Cummins, spinner Nathan Lyon, batsmen Steve Smith and Marnus Labuschagne and local all-rounder and legend Mitch Marsh.

Divisive opener David Warner will also be in action, fresh from ex-Scorchers quick Mitchell Johnson’s explosive newspaper article about the veteran not warranting a farewell game later this summer. In an intriguing subplot, Johnson will be at the game doing commentary for Triple M, so stay tuned if he crosses paths with Warner pre-game.

Pakistan’s big stars are batsman Babar Azam, who recently stepped down as skipper, along left-arm quick Shaheen Shah Afridi. Both are ranked in the top five in Test cricket for their disciplines. Pakistan haven’t played a Test in Perth for almost 20 years, so the local Pakistani community should be out in force.

The West Test Preview

When is it?

The game starts at 10:20am Thursday. It’s a Test match, so it’s scheduled to run for five days, with three sessions per day up until around 5:30pm-6pm each day. It’s the first of a three-game Test series against Pakistan.

What’s the West Test all about?

Outgoing WACA CEO Christina Matthews is hoping the new ‘West Test’ will become iconic with time. The big shift, beyond a random name, is the artificial grass bank and terrace build into the Optus Stadium grandstand which can hold up to 500 patrons each day. The grass bank includes deck chairs, beach towels and bean bags for casual seatings along with umbrellas to provide some shade. It’s all a bit of a novelty – reflecting the WACA Ground’s old charm with the two grass banks on either side – but will likely be popular each day given the limited supply.

It’s hoped that a crowd of 15-20,000 will turn up on day one, which feels achievable. The first day of a Test summer is always well attended, and starting a Test on a Thursday in mid-December is far more attractive date than last year – on a Wednesday in November. Friday, alongside the weekend days, should be popular too.

West Test hill

How’s the pitch looking?

This is a classic cricket question, but for the uninitiated the pitch is the dead grass in the middle where all the action happens. The condition of the pitch always has a big say in how the game pans out, as it dictates how the ball bounces. The WACA Ground was iconic for its hard, fast pitch offering steep bounce and the Optus Stadium pitch, despite being a drop-in wicket curated next door in the nursery, has replicated plenty of those features. In saying that, last year’s Test was a runfest (Labuschagne and Smith both scored double hundreds), so the jury is out.

Game day information:

Public transport is always the go at Optus Stadium with limited parking. There’s always Uber and taxi dropoff points nearby too. Plan ahead via Transperth, with ticketholders getting free transport on the day.

Tickets are available via Ticketmaster starting at $30 for adults or $10 for kids.

Image Credit: WACA