It’s not very often that we at 51allout find ourselves at the cutting edge of cricket news. Normally, we’re talking about things that happened years ago. This is partly because we’re all getting on a bit, and have begun clinging to the events of our youth as if they were some sort of lifeboat, a small dinghy adrift in the giant ocean of time; the tide pulling us further and further away from the shore. Also, as well as being old, we’re also really slow and lazy and it takes us forever to actually get round to writing about things, especially with Mario Odyssey swallowing up every hour of the day and night.
On this occasion though, we were there for a bit of history as it happened, being amongst 55,000 or so people who saw the first ever sporting event at the new Perth Stadium, England’s narrow win over Australia in the fifth and final ODI. As such, it would be remiss of us not to pass on our verdict on every single aspect of the day, from getting there and back to sampling the beverages, putting the toilet facilities to the test and even watching a bit of the cricket.
For all the complaints about the WACA, the actual location of the ground is pretty good, being just two kilometres away from the city centre. However, covering those two kilometres was always far more of a challenge than it should have been; although all the buses around the city centre are free, working out where to get one from (and where exactly to get off) is a lot more complicated than it should be, leading to bemused travellers finding themselves back at the airport. The new stadium is just over the Swan River but has its own dedicated train and bus stations, all linking directly with the existing train lines. It’s basically an enormous improvement, even if taking public transport goes against absolutely everything that Perth stands for, such as driving to the local shops, driving to the pub and driving to the end of the drive.
For the opening game, this writer found himself in the bottom tier, just under the shade of the middle tier. The view was immaculate, exactly as we imagine waking up next to Jenna Coleman would be. There was a clear view of the absolutely fantastic big screen, as well as more than one smaller screen close by. However, any benefit of this second screen was immediately wiped out when it became clear that it would be showing Channel Nine’s coverage throughout the day, with no-one able to find the remote
To put the stadium to the ultimate Test, I also made my way up to the very top tier, where the view was also immaculate, like waking up to find yourself suspended 30 metres above Jenna Coleman with an excellent view of her outfield. The downside of the top tier was that there were an awful lot of stairs to be climbed to get to that view, emphatically reminding this writer that not doing any physical exercise for a month isn’t the best long-term health plan.
In conclusion then, based on a sample size of two, or 0.0036% of the total seating available, there’s not a poor seat in the house.
The food at the WACA was legendarily bad, consisting mainly of expensive roadkill being rammed into a low-quality brioche bun and sold for $12. By contrast, the fish and chips at the new stadium were not only nice but also good value, consisting of four large bits of fish and a fuckton of chips, also for $12. The queue for the food wasn’t too bad, especially because I made the mother-in-law do the actual queuing bit, resulting in her missing two wickets. Plus she was sent to queue up again almost immediately after when it became clear that she’d forgotten the salt and vinegar: the moral of the story being don’t come along for a free ticket and expect to get everything on a plate.
There were reports that a number of stalls actually ran out of food well before the close of play. Quite how this happened was beyond us – surely you just multiply the number of attendees by the average number of meals purchased and then add a bunch more on to provide a surplus; it’s not as if sausage rolls can’t live in the freezer for many years. It was only a little later that 51allout reader Tom pointed out that Aaron Finch being left out of the side, and therefore being free to roam from food outlet to food outlet, was probably the main driver of the eventual shortages.
Another black mark against the WACA: the fact that the best possible result upon purchasing a low-quality mid-strength beer would be it evaporating in the sun, rather than having to actually drink it. There it was some variation on XXXX (or at least we think it was – we tried not to put a name to such evil); at the Perth Stadium it was a Gage Roads beer named Single Fin. The brewers themselves describe it as ‘more refreshing than a face full of Freo Doctor’, which sounds like something Harvey Weinstein would do as part of the casting process. We would describe it as ‘quite nice’ (certainly better than Shane Warne’s 99 not out pale ale), a review which we would be more than happy to upgrade were we given some more to help form our opinion.
Of course, whenever there is beer being drunk, there are also trips to the toilet. Because 51allout don’t do things by halves, this reader went the whole hog and tried out the sit-down toilets, although sadly not by putting in a pound of mashed up Dundee cake. There seemed to be a major shortage of toilet paper, however (possibly also related to Aaron Finch’s non-selection), necessitating trips to no less than three different sets of toilets on two floors, like the reanimated corpse of George Michael enjoying a day at the cricket. When the time came though, the flush did its job efficiently: another superb example of what $1.6 billion buys you these days.
As well as all this tomfoolery around the ground, there’s also the small matter of the big round green bit in the middle that it’s best not to run onto naked unless you’re a) very well off and b) a bit dim. The pitch itself was of the drop-in variety, grown at Gloucester Park, just next door to the WACA and certainly seemed consistent with the characteristics of WACA pitches past: pace and bounce galore, with one early delivery from Josh Hazelwood taking off from a good length and soaring gloriously over Tim Paine to the boundary. The outfield was lush and green, like a beautifully ironed copy of the Test Match board game and the whole thing looked rather splendid. The pitch seemed perfect for batting to begin with but as the balls softened and started to reverse, both teams rather fell apart, with both innings stuttering before grinding to a complete halt.
On a big day for Western Australia, there were significant contributions from three local players – Andrew Tye took 5/46 and Mitch Marsh 2/24 while Marcus Stoinis also bashed his way to 87 after being pushed up the order. But in the end, it was Tom Curran (5/35) who had the last laugh, castling Tim Paine’s stumps to leave England victorious and send the locals rushing to the new train station, where the real competition involved wedging oneself onto a train for a remarkably sweaty journey home.