The ‘Boxing Day’ Test Match is a Test cricket match played at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) in Australia, featuring the host and the national team touring that summer.
It generally starts on the Boxing Day (26th December), although there were instances of matches that started a day or two before the 26th. Traditionally, a Sheffield Shield match between the provincial rivals Victoria and New South Wales used to be a Christmas bonanza at the MCG till 1980 when the Melbourne Cricket Club and the Australian cricket team came into an agreement to play a test match annually, beginning on Boxing Day at the MCG.
Before 1980, only five matches were played around the Christmas frenzy at the MCG with the Ashes test in 1950 being the first one and another Ashes test in 1974 being the most notable one when 10th man Jeff Thomson played final four deliveries for Australia to ensure a draw.
Here let’s have a look at 10 memorable Boxing Day matches since 1980.
1981 v West Indies: On day 1, the Aussie batting fell like ninepins in front of the Caribbean pace quartet of Holding, Roberts, Garner and Croft, with a fighting century from Hughes being the saving grace. However, Dennis Lillee fought with fire with a career-best 7/83 to ensure the Caribbean lead stand at just 3 runs. Chasing a target of 220, West Indies fell 58 short with Yardley and Lillee taking seven in between. This loss ended West Indies’15 match unbeaten streak.
Brief scores: Australia – 198 and 222; West Indies – 201 and 161. For full scorecard, click here.
1982 v England: Now this is a match that has really gone down to the wire. Chasing a target of 292, Australia had themselves nearly dead at 218/9. The last wicket partnership between Border and Thomson added 70 runs before Botham broke the deadlock giving England a three run reprieve.
Brief scores: England – 284 and 294; Australia – 287 and 288. For full scorecard, click here.
1986 v England: The touring English side, under the leadership of Mike Gatting, sealed the Ashes in style after inflicting an innings defeat on the hapless Aussies inside three days.
Brief scores: Australia – 141 and 194; England – 349. For full scorecard, click here.
1987 v New Zealand: The Kiwis scored 317 in their first innings with John Wright scoring 99 and Martin Crowe 82. Australia had a poor start, but was taken out of slumber to 357 by Sleep (90) and Dodemaide (50), with the latter picking up 6/58 later. Chasing 247 for victory, the last pair survived a fiery Richard Hadlee, who accounted for 10 wickets in the match, to ensure Australia a draw.
Brief scores: New Zealand – 317 and 286; Australia – 357 and 230/9. For full scorecard, click here.
1996 v West Indies: Trailing the series 0-2, the visitors restricted Australia to 219 with Ambrose picking up 5. Half-centuries from Chanderpaul, Jimmy Adams and Murray ensured a 36 runs lead for West Indies. Ambrose (4/17), with Walsh and Benjamin, strangled the hosts for 122 in their second innings. The Caribbeans finally knocked off the 87 run target with 6 wickets and 2 days to spare.
Brief scores: Australia – 219 and 122; West Indies – 255 and 87/4. For full scorecard, click here.
1998 v England: Alec Stewart’s century helped England reach 270. In reply, Steve Waugh too hit a ton and with MacGill (43) playing a second fiddle, Australia took a good 70 run lead. England was rescued by Hick and Hussain to set the hosts a target of 175. Headley (6/60) and Mullally ran through the top-order as Gough cleaned up the tail to hand England a 12 run victory and chance to level the series at Sydney.
Brief scores: England – 270 and 244; Australia – 340 and 162. For full scorecard, click here.
2003 v India: Sehwag’s attacking 195 was countered by Ponting (257) hitting his second double ton in as many matches. Trailing by 192, India’s resistance ended with Dravid (92) and an injured Ganguly (73). Australia finally levelled the series with a resounding 9 wicket victory.
Brief scores: India – 366 and 286; Australia – 558 and 97/1. For full scorecard, click here.
2008 v South Africa: Australia’s streak of nine straight Boxing Day victories was ended by a Protean side led by Graeme Smith. In reply to the host’s 394, the Proteas were struggling at 251/8 when Duminy (166) and Steyn (76) essayed an incredible comeback to hand South Africa a 65 run lead. And they never stepped a foot wrong henceforth, chasing down 183 for the loss of one wicket. The visitors took an unassailable 2-0 lead, handing Australia their first home series defeat in 16 years.
Brief scores: Australia – 394 and 247; South Africa – 459 and 183/1. For full scorecard, click here.
2010 v England: It was a summer of despair for the hosts as the touring English side ensured that the famous urn will return with them for the first time in 24 years. Bundling out for 98 in the first innings, the hosts never recovered as Andrew Strauss’ men scripted a win by a thumping margin of an innings and 157 runs over Ponting, on verge of losing a record hattrick of Ashes series.
Brief scores: Australia – 98 and 258; England – 513. For full scorecard, click here.
2013 v England: Although the hosts have regained the urn before the start of the match, it was time for inflicting one of the heaviest Ashes bashing to England. England could hardly do any justice to their 51 run first innings lead or defending a final target of 231, as Australia’s 8 wicket victory paved their way for a third 5-0 whitewash of England in the Ashes history and the first series in which they would have bundled out England in all the 10 innings they batted.
Brief scores: England – 255 and 179; Australia – 204 and 231/2. For full scorecard, click here.
Extras: Last year, ‘captain cool’ Mahendra Singh Dhoni called time on his Test career after guiding his team to a draw in the ‘Boxing Day’ test which sealed a series defeat for India. In the 1995 ‘Boxing Day’ test, legendary Sri Lankan off-spinner, Muttiah Muralitharan, (then a 23-year old), was called seven times in space of 3 overs for chucking by Australian umpire Darrell Hair.
N.B.: Although not so religiously, ‘Boxing Day’ tests (sometimes ODIs and T20Is) are also played at Basin Reserve, Wellington in New Zealand and Kingsmead, Durban in South Africa.
Photo by ~Prescott