From aluminium bats to Agar’s 98: Five of the most memorable West Aussie Ashes moments

Adam Gilchrist
Home >Sports >From aluminium bats to Agar’s 98: Five of the most memorable West Aussie Ashes moments

Things are – to put it lightly – heated in the 2023 Ashes series after Australia claimed a 2-0 lead in the five-game series with Sunday night’s thrilling 43-run victory over England at Lord’s.

WA’s Cameron Green was in the thick of the controversy when he was the bowler as Alex Carey opportunistically “stumped” Jonny Bairstow on the fifth day, initiating incessant jeers and boos from the parochial home crowd along with criticism from England around Australia upholding the “spirit of cricket”.

The scenes inside the normally genteel MCC Members Long Room as the Australians headed up to the dressing sheds for lunch were extraordinary, with patrons shouting “cheat, cheat, cheat” at the tourists, with a few spotfires erupting as Usman Khawaja and David Warner, in particular, took umbrage with the language and accusations directed at them.

Either way you stand on that whole “spirit of cricket” argument, the record books will show Australia are 2-0 up and could on their way to their first series victory in England since 2001. Green’s role in that moment, albeit peripheral in comparison to Carey and captain Pat Cummins who upheld the appeal, got us thinking about the history of the Ashes and stand-out Western Australian moments, both at the old WACA Ground and from WA players.

There’s been some special Sandgroper performances such as Justin Langer’s 250 in the 2002 Boxing Day Test, Terry Alderman’s wicket-taking exploits in England in the 1981 and 1989 series, beanpole WA quick Bruce Reid’s 13-wicket Test at the MCG in 1990 and adopted WA hero Mitchell Johnson’s 37 wickets in the 2013-14 series with that memorably intimidating moustache.

There’s been some memorable WACA Ground moments too, namely Doug Walters’ century in a session capped with a final-ball six in 1974, hometown hero Mike Hussey’s hundred in 2010 and Alderman tackling a ground invader in 1982, sustaining a serious shoulder injury as a result. Local legend Mitch Marsh combined with Steve Smith for a venue-record 301-run fifth-wicket stand in the last-ever WACA Ashes Test in 2017 too.

We’ve whittled it down to a few memorable individual moments:

Ashton Agar’s 98 on debut

Another adopted son of WA, Ashton Agar, made an indelible mark after making a shock debut as a 19-year-old in the first Test of the 2013 Ashes at Nottingham’s Trent Bridge. Agar was picked as a spinner, but didn’t really make an impression with the ball, with two wickets. Instead, it was his batting that captivated audiences. Agar came in to bat at no.11 with Australia in strife at 9-117 in reply to England’s 215, before combining with the late Phil Hughes for a world record 10th -wicket partnership of 163.

Agar’s carefree knock included 12 boundaries and two sixes and just as he appeared destined for a remarkable debut century, he was caught at deep midwicket by Graeme Swann off Stuart Broad for Agar’s total was the highest-ever Test score by anyone batting at no.11, ensuring his eternal place in history. Sadly for Australia, England triumphed by 14 runs in a nail-biter with Agar only managing 14 in the second innings when elevated up to no.8, as the tourists failed to chase down the target of 311.

Swampy and Tubby’s record-breaking opening stand

Geoff ‘Swampy’ Marsh is well known as a WA legend and one of his finest batting moments came in the 1989 Ashes in Nottingham when he combined with Mark ‘Tubby’ Taylor for a record-breaking 329-run opening stand in the first innings of the match after Australia had won the toss and elected to bat first.

The pair batted through the entire first day, both bringing up their centuries in the final session with Australia reaching 0-301 at stumps. The partnership was finally broken when Marsh fell for 138 before lunch on day two. That opening partnership remains to this day the highest ever first-wicket stand in Ashes history. It was also the largest opening-wicket stand in Test history in England. With the game set up, the aforementioned Alderman proceeded to demolish England’s batting lineup as Australia won by an innings and 180 runs, cruising to a 4-0 series triumph.

Harris clean bowls Cook first ball in 2013-14 WACA Test

Australia’s 5-0 whitewash of the 2013-14 series was spearheaded by Johnson and the series was clinched at the WACA Ground in Perth when the Aussies won the third Test by 150 runs. But Ryan Harris produced the moment which brought the WACA crowd alive, etching a place in folklore.

The hosts had declared in the second innings after free-scoring centuries from David Warner and Shane Watson, along with George Bailey’s world record 28 runs off one James Anderson over, setting England an improbable target of 504 to win. Australia had five sessions to bowl out England but the WACA wicket had been relatively docile, hence the high scoring, meaning victory was far from guaranteed.

Thus the moment when Ryan Harris opened the bowling with England captain Alastair Cook on strike in his 100th Test. The Australian bowler’s first ball shaped back and clipped the off bail to clean bowl Cook, who was left in a state of shock, while Harris raced off in jubilant celebration and the WACA crowd erupted. It was Cook’s first-ever golden duck, coming from an absolute gem from Harris.

Lillee’s aluminium bat controversy

With 355 wickets to his name, fast bowler Dennis Lillee is a true WA legend but one of his most famous moments at the WACA was more controversial than brilliant. It also came with the bat, rather than the ball, albeit it wasn’t your standard wood bat, instead Lillee strode to the WACA crease in the 1978-79 series to start day two with an aluminium bat. He had used a wooden bat late on day one, but ears were pricked to the change when an unusual “clang” emanated from the bat as he drove Ian Botham through mid-off.

England’s captain Mike Brearley complained to the umpires that the powder-coated metallic bat had damaged the leather ball. Indeed, the umpires requested Lillee’s bat be replaced by a standard willow bat which, after a lengthy delay, led to the WA fast bowler theatrically hurling the blade over the head of onrushing skipper Greg Chappell who didn’t agree with Lillee’s bat choice.

The situation led to the game’s governing body tweaking the laws of the game to ensure bats had to be wood, outlawing the innovative aluminium blade.

Gilly’s second fastest Test century at the WACA

Few Ashes memories will ever compare to local hero Adam Gilchrist’s world-record century in a session at the WACA Ground on day three of the third Test of the 2006-07 series. Gilchrist bludgeoned the desperate English attack in a ruthless display of big-hitting which reinforced Australia’s dominance in the Test after holding a 29-run first-innings lead.

Gilchrist entered the fray after tea at 4-357, reaching 50 in an impressive 40 balls but then he went up several gears in astonishing fashion, launching three sixes over mid-wicket into the sun-bathed WACA crowd from one Monty Panesar over.

As Gilchrist accelerated, the word started to spread around the crowd that he was closing in on the fastest century in Test history. The WACA fans cheered on every boundary as he closed in on the record. Gilchrist ultimately reached triple figures in 57 balls with a two through cover, falling one short of Sir Viv Richards’ Test record of 56 deliveries. But that didn’t matter for those in attendance during a remarkable final session where he hit 12 fours and four sixes. Australia went on to win the Test by 206 runs and the series 5-0.

The 2023 Ashes series continues on Thursday 6 July from 6pm WST, watch it live on Channel 9.

Image Credit: Ezra Shaw/Getty

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