India and Australia will clash in the big Boxing Day Test at the historic MCG from the 26th of December. India got the better of the hosts the last time they played at the venue in 2018 with Jasprit Bumrah showcasing his prowess with the ball. The Boxing Day Test has a unique history with plenty of spectacular performances and all-time great classics witnessed at the venue.
Traditionally, a Sheffield Shield match between Victoria and New South Wales was played over Christmas and included Boxing Day (26th of December) as one of the scheduled days of play. However, during the 1950-51 Ashes, the MCG hosted a Test from the 22nd to the 27th of December and thus this became the first Boxing Day Test. It was only from 1980 that the modern tradition of starting the Test on Boxing Day became an annual fixture.
We look back at 10 interesting numbers about Australia’s history in Boxing Day Test matches in Melbourne and some of the great matches, performances and records at the venue.
Note: All Tests in Melbourne which include the 26th of December as one of the playing days are classified as Boxing Day Tests
44: Number of Boxing Day Tests hosted by Melbourne
The MCG has hosted 44 Boxing Day Test matches. The first such Test, which commenced on the 22nd of December was held in 1950 with hosts Australia beating England by 28 runs in a low-scoring thriller. The match included some legends like Neil Harvey, Keith Miller, Lindsay Hassett, Ray Lindwall, Len Hutton and Alec Bedser.
The first Boxing Day Test which started from the 26th of December was held between Australia and West Indies in 1968. Bill Lawry, the Australian skipper, smashed a double hundred and Ian Chappell scored 165 as Australia went on to register an innings victory over the Gary Sobers’ led West Indies.
25: Number of Wins for Australia in the Boxing Day Fixture
Australia has won 25 of the 44 Boxing Day Test matches it has hosted at the MCG. 10 have been drawn while there have been 9 losses - 4 against England, 2 each against West Indies and South Africa and one against India in 2018.
9: Australia’s Longest Unbeaten Winning Streak in the Boxing Day Test
Australia won 9 consecutive Boxing Day Test matches starting from 1999 against India till 2007 (also against India where Tendulkar scored a masterclass 116 in the first innings). This is not surprising as the Australian teams of this period, led by Steve Waugh and then Ricky Ponting, are amongst the greatest teams to have played Test cricket. 8 of these 9 wins were by massive margins. The Australian domination came to an end when the Graeme Smith-led South African team thrashed them by 9 wickets in 2008. A certain Dale Steyn returned with two fifers and 10 for the match!
100: Kim Hughes First Innings’ Score in the 1981 Win over the West Indies
Kim Hughes scored an unbeaten 100 out of a total of 198 in Australia’s first innings against a bowling attack comprising the likes of Holding, Croft, Roberts and Garner. The batsmen before him had scored 4, 3, 0 and 4. The second-highest score in the innings was 21. His innings proved to be the differentiator between the two sides as Australia went on to beat the mighty West Indies by 58 runs. It is regarded as one of the finest hundreds by an Australian in a Boxing Day Test.
3: England’s Margin of Victory in the Thriller in 1982
England were bowled out for 284 in the first innings. Australia replied with 287. The visitors posted 294 in the second setting the hosts a target of 292. After losing Wessels, Greg Chappell and Dyson with the score at 71, Kim Hughes and David Hookes led Australia’s fightback putting together a century stand for the fourth-wicket. But Hughes dismissal triggered a collapse as Norman Cowans wrecked Australia’s lower-middle order and finished with six wickets. Border and Thomson kept fighting and put together 70 for the last wicket before the latter was removed by Botham. Australia were bowled out for 288. England won a thriller by 3 runs.
17: Australia Fell 17 Runs Short in a Thrilling Draw in 1987
1987 saw one of the most thrilling draws in Test history unfold at the MCG. Australia, chasing 247, were in a comfortable position at 209 for 5 before the great Sir Richard Hadlee returned and reduced them to 227 for 9. The New Zealand all-rounder equaled Ian Botham’s record for the highest number of wickets in Test history (373). McDermott and Whitney played out a tense 29 remaining balls, falling 17 short of the target, but more importantly denied New Zealand a win - which meant that Australia won the three-match series 1-0. The Test also saw the great Martin Crowe register fifties in both the innings.
7-52: Warne Makes a Statement in 1992
Shane Warne returned with 7-52 off 23.2 overs in the second innings including the wickets of Simmons, Richie Richardson, Arthurton and Hooper to help Australia to a 139-run win over a strong West Indian unit in 1992. West Indies chasing 359 in the 4th innings were bowled out for 219.
0,0,0: Scores of Warne’s Hat-Trick Victims in 1994
Shane Warne saw the back of Phil DeFreitas, Darren Gough and Devon Malcolm as England, chasing 388, folded for 92 in the second innings in 1994. It is the only hat-trick in a Boxing Day fixture at the MCG.
208 & 195: Two of the Great Boxing Day Hundreds by Visiting Batsmen in Australia
In the summer of 1984, Viv Richards smashed one of the most breathtaking double hundreds in the history of the Boxing Day Test. Batting at number 3, he hammered 208 off just 245 deliveries including 22 fours and 3 sixes in the 4th Test of the series at the MCG. Almost two decades later, in 2003, Virender Sehwag hammered 195 off just 233 deliveries including 25 fours and 5 sixes scoring more than half of his team’s total of 366.
700: Warne became the first bowler to take 700 Test Wickets in the Boxing Day Test in 2006
Shane Warne became the first bowler in the history of Test cricket to take 700 wickets when in front of his home crowd on the first day of the Boxing Day Ashes Test at the MCG in 2006, he bamboozled Andrew Strauss and castled his middle stump.