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Remembering The Gabba

With the ‘gas merchants’ likely to be the headline-stealers for the first test at the Gabba, I thought it pertinent to get you up to speed with the intricacies of the initial venue.

It is now a modern and superb stadium located in the inner Brisbane suburb of Woolloongabba, some 4 kms south of the Brisbane CBD. There is no firm consensus on the origination of the Aboriginal meaning of the name Woolloongabba and experts are divided on opinion, preferring either 'whirling waters' (woolloon and capemm) or 'fight talk place' (woolloon and gabba).

It has been used as a multi-sport stadium over the years with many codes making an appearance at some stage but unique from other cricket grounds around the world. For a long period it was well-known for greyhound racing and even had a permanent racetrack framing the playing arena.

The Gabba underwent a much-needed and extensive six phase redevelopment between 1993 and 2005 over six phases at a cost of A$128 000 000 and that subsequently completely changed the appearance as it adopted a mini MCG look. It now has a capacity of 42 000 as the grassy banks, the Moreton Bay figs and the dog track have been replaced with contemporary concrete stands. The ground now offers superb facilities for the players, media and public alike.

It has long been the rather hostile venue that visiting teams confront as they play their first test at the start of a series. To further intimidate, it has a reputation of being imposing and loud, such is the spectator enthusiasm for the home team as the visitors confront considerable pace and bounce. It has been the host for 54 tests and remarkably 47 of those have been the opening test of a series.

Australia’s performance record in Queensland is daunting and they have not lost any of their last 23 outings. The last team to defeat them at The Gabba was the magnificent men in maroon from the Caribbean way back in 1988 as Australia were rolled over for 167 in the first innings.

Speaking of first innings performances, one statistic that will weigh heavily on the planning sessions of the Australians leading into this first clash is South Africa’s impressive first innings average total in tests. Over the last 10 tests they have averaged 376 in their first dig, which has automatically placed them in a very favourable early position.

Much has been written about the expected importance of the pace confrontation early in this series and the first innings reflection and comparison in Brisbane alone could well decide the outcome.

The Gabba is steeped in history and is a far cry from the low-lying and swampy area it once was prior to becoming a sporting venue in 1895. It has been a rich cricketing theatre for many captivating moments but none better than during the memorable test of December 1960 between Australia and the West Indies. The most famous moment on the ground was beautifully captured on static film as West Indies fielder Joe Solomon's direct hit from square leg shattered the stumps.

It is one of the most memorable images in the history of cricket photography and was the final moment of the first-ever tied test match.

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