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Festive Magic: What Does History Tell Us About Boxing Day Test Matches?


In a year like no other, it is reassuring to see that Australia’s traditional Boxing Day men’s Test match will go ahead at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. One of the annual highlights of Australia’s sporting calendar and indeed the wider cricketing world, it is a festive event steeped in history. But who are the Boxing Day record-holders, those who thrive while others struggle to emerge from the post-Christmas slumber? Join us as we take a trip down memory lane to find out. 

By: Lukas Zaher

An M.C.G. men’s Test match has coincided with Boxing Day every year since 1990, when Australia defeated England by eight wickets. The Ashes combatants have contested the most such fixtures over that time, with eight test matches, but India are set to equal that mark when they face off against the Australians come December 26th. Indeed, India were victorious (by 137 runs) the last time they played in the festive event in 2018, so will not be lacking in confidence this time around. There’ll also be little in the way of surprises for this touring side this time around.

Pakistan (L3) and Sri Lanka (L2) are the only teams to have participated in the fixture multiple times since 1990 without tasting victory against Australia. Australia’s record at the MCG during Boxing Day Men’s Tests is unsurprisingly dominant:

Australia’s Record in MCG Boxing Day Men’s Tests (By Opposition) 1990 – 2019:

South Africa5221
West Indies4301
Sri Lanka2200
New Zealand1100

The Batsmen

Ricky Ponting (1,338) is the leading run-scorer from the last 30 years of Boxing Day men’s Tests at the MCG, with 235 more runs than the next-best and Australian teammate Matthew Hayden (1,103). Hayden has scored the most centuries (six) of any player in the fixture across this period. One of the current Australian players in Steven Smith (113.5) boasts the best batting average of any player to have had at least three innings at the ground. In fact, Smith is 92 runs away from becoming the fourth player to score 1,000 at the MCG across this stretch, where he’ll join the illustrious band of Ponting, Hayden and Waugh.

MCG Boxing Day Men’s Tests Highest Run-Scorers (1990 – 2019):

Ricky Ponting281,33825758.247
Matthew Hayden191,10315368.963
Steve Waugh201,074131*76.735
Steven Smith12908192113.543
Mark Waugh1873511245.915

Indian legend Sachin Tendulkar (449) is the leading run-scorer among overseas players to have played in a Boxing Day men’s Test match since 1990, although the distinction for the highest score by an overseas player belongs to England’s Sir Alastair Cook, who scored 244* against Australia in 2017. It is the highest unbeaten score in the fixture and the third-highest in an innings overall (Ricky Ponting – 257 v India in 2003 and Justin Langer – 250 v England in 2002). Cook’s strike rate of 59.7 in the innings is the second-highest of the quartet of players to have scored a double century at the MCG in Boxing Day tests, second to Justin Langer (61.4 v England, 2002.)

The Bowlers

Shane Warne has been the pick of the bowlers over the last 30 years of the Boxing Day fixture, taking 56 wickets on his home deck at the MCG – only Glenn McGrath (42) has also taken 40+. Indeed, Warne’s best inning figures of 7/52 (1992 v West Indies) in this span is only bettered by one other individual (Bruce Reid – 7/51 v England, 1990). India’s Anil Kumble (15 wickets) is the most prolific overseas bowler in this fixture.

MCG Boxing Day Men’s Tests Most Wickets (1990 – 2019):

PlayerOversMaidensWicketsAvgEconStrike Rate5 Wicket Innings
Shane Warne5231295622.92.556.03
Glenn McGrath439.21444222.82.262.72
Brett Lee306.4713428.53.254.11
Mitchell Johnson253.5563223.93.047.51
Nathan Lyon334.5533134.43.264.81

Jasprit Bumrah is a key member of India’s bowling attack on this tour of Australia and had a particularly fruitful time in his only previous Boxing Day Test experience in 2018. Bumrah finished with his Test-best figures of 9/86 for the match at a strike rate of 23.2 – it is the best strike rate of any bowler to have had at least five overs with the ball in the Boxing Day fixture in the last 30 years. Bruce Reid (27.9) is the leading Australian player in this regard.

*Jasprit Bumrah – Balls Bowled v Right and Left-Hand Bat respectively (At MCG in Test)

MCG Boxing Day Men’s Tests Best Strike Rates (1990 – 2019, Min. 5 Overs Bowled)

PlayerCountryOversStrike RateWicketsAvgEcon
Jasprit BumrahIndia34.523.299.62.5
Bruce ReidAustralia116.227.92511.02.4
Dale SteynSouth Africa49.229.61015.43.1
Sajid MahmoodEngland21.332.2425.04.7
Jason GillespieAustralia117.133.42113.42.4

After the festive events of the previous day, there is something truly magical about the Boxing Day Test. It will be a delight to take it all in once again.

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