The Boxing Day Test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground has been a permanent fixture on the calendar since 1980, becoming an Australian sporting institution that has produced countless unforgettable moments. Ahead of Australia’s MCG clash with New Zealand – the Kiwis’ first Boxing Day Test appearance in 32 years – we’re counting down the greatest memories from an iconic annual event.
20. Yallop’s marathon knock (1983)
What Graham Yallop lacked in flamboyance, he made up for in patience and technical correctness. The moustachioed stalwart still holds the record for the highest score in a Boxing Day Test for his painstaking 268 in the drawn clash with Pakistan in 1983, which took 716 minutes to compile. Perhaps if he’d picked up the pace a little, Australia would have had time to snare the remaining three Pakistan wickets they needed for victory…
19. Johnson the all-rounder (2012)
If it wasn’t enough for Sri Lanka to be subjected to Mitchell Johnson’s fast-bowling ferocity in the 2012 Boxing Day Test, the lower-order slugger outscored every one of the tourists with the bat. Johnson claimed six wickets as Sri Lanka mustered just 156 and 103. In between those brief innings, No.8 Johnson – who posted his sole Test century in Cape Town three years earlier – bludgeoned 92 not out in Australia’s 460 (captain Michael Clarke top-scored with 106). The match was over early on the third day.
18. Cook’s last stand (2017)
Champion opener Alistair Cook’s miserable series Down Under in 2017 epitomised England’s dismal campaign. The veteran scored 83 runs at 13.83 in the first three Tests but plundered a stoic 244 not out in Melbourne to ensure the embattled tourists would not lose. The match petered out to a draw, but it was a personal victory for Cook – and the last of his 33 Test tons before calling it a day nine months later.
17. Murali called for chucking (1995)
Sri Lankan spinner Muttiah Muralitharan’s unusual action caused controversy from the outset of his international career, which began in 1992. But his first tour of Australia in the 1995-96 summer brought matters to a head – courtesy of homegrown umpire Darrell Hair. The 23-year-old was no-balled for ‘chucking’ by Hair seven times in three overs, sparking tense scenes at the MCG with captain Arjuna Ranatunga leaving the field to confer with team management. David Boon and Steve Waugh capitalised on the visitors’ woes with centuries as Australia reached 6/500 declared, while Murali finished with 1/124 from 38 overs. The polarising Muralitharan overcame that difficult experience and his action was cleared by the ICC, paving the way for him to amass a world record 800 wickets in an 18-year Test career.
— The Sydney Morning Herald (@smh) December 27, 2014
16. Smith and Kohli trade centuries (2014)
Steve Smith and Virat Kohli were firmly established as world cricket’s brightest batting talents heading into India’s 2014-15 series in Australia. In the Adelaide Test – played in the wake of Phillip Hughes’ tragic death – Smith scored 162* and 52*, while Kohli plundered a century in each innings. The wunderkinds were at it again at the MCG, with stand-in skipper Smith scoring 192 and Kohli 169 in their teams’ respective huge first innings. Kohli dug in to make 54 in the fourth innings as India held on for a draw. The rivals both racked up first-innings tons during the New Year’s Test at the SCG.
15. ‘The Master Blaster’ (1984)
Australia survived – only barely – to hold all-conquering West Indies to a draw in the 1984-85 MCG Test (which got underway on December 22). But the decade’s greatest batsman, Viv Richards, had already stamped his unparalleled class on the match by scoring a spellbinding 208 off just 245 balls. The impossibly stylish Richards smashed 22 fours and three sixes in his crowd-pleasing knock. The Windies won the series 3-1.
— Benjamin Raj (@raj_benjamin) December 28, 2016
14. Warner and Smith trump Ali’s heroics (2016)
Unfancied Pakistan made an outstanding start to the 2016 Boxing Day Test, with opener Azhar Ali (205 not out) carrying his bat as the tourists declared on 9/443. But a swashbuckling run-a-ball 144 from David Warner and a typically majestic 165 not out from captain Steve Smith turned the tables. Australia declared with a 181-run lead and bowled Pakistan out for 163 in their second dig.
RT bbctms "RT 5liveSport: englandcricket StuartBroad8 "One of my favourite days ever in the job" – Aggerscricket
? Australia out for 98 on Boxing Day;
? Jonathan Trott's 168*,
? The Sprinkler celebration.
The Melbourne Test of 2010 will live long i… pic.twitter.com/K3AXqqJk8X"
— SportsGridUK (@Sportsgriduk) July 31, 2018
13. Trott’s triumph (2010)
England’s 2010-11 Ashes triumph Down Under included subjecting Australia to their first innings defeat in Melbourne in 24 years. After Australia collapsed to be 98 all out on Boxing Day, Jonathan Trott guided England to a 415-run first-innings lead with a magnificent 168 not out. The home side could only muster 258 in their second dig, handing the win by an innings and 157 runs – and a 2-1 series lead – to England. South African-born Trott had only broken into the England team a year earlier and the trip to Australia was an unmistakable high point – he also scored an unbeaten 135 in the first Test in Brisbane to help salvage a vital series-opening draw.
12. Lee’s stunning debut (1999)
Lee played the last of his 76 Tests in 2008, finishing with 310 wickets (fourth in Australian Test history) and 10 five-wicket bags. The express-pace New South Welshman gave an immediate indication of what he was capable of when he was called into the Test side to debut in the 1999 Boxing Day Test, replacing Michael Kasprowicz. Lee took a wicket in his first over when Indian opener Ramesh chopped on to his stumps, before adding four more scalps for a dream five-for. The 23-year-old followed up his 5/47 with a couple of key fourth-innings wickets as Australia powered to a 180-run win, showcasing the ability that would see him regarded as one of the world’s premier bowlers for almost a decade.
11. ‘Mr. Cricket’ shines in maiden MCG Test (2005)
Michael Hussey waited an eternity for his chance in the baggy green, belatedly debuting at the age of 30 against West Indies in November 2005. A month later he lined up in his first Boxing Day Test – and marked the occasion with a sparkling 122 – including 14 fours and four sixes – to lay the platform for Australia’s 184-run victory over South Africa. After a middle-order collapse, Hussey dominated the scoring in a 107-run partnership with No.11 bunny Glenn McGrath. It was Hussey’s third century in just his fifth Test, while he would go on to make 19 tons in a marvellous seven-year tenure in the whites.
10. ‘Punter’ torches India (2003)
Virender Sehwag provided the December 26 highlights by scoring a spectacular 195 off 223 balls in an otherwise underwhelming Indian batting performance. But Ricky Ponting would be the star of the match, piecing together a career-best 257 as Australia amassed 568 – a first-inning lead of 202. The captain-in-waiting batted for almost 10 hours, which included a 234-run stand with Matthew Hayden, who scored a brisk 136. Fittingly, Hayden (53*) and Ponting (31*) were at the crease on day five to complete Australia’s emphatic nine-wicket victory.
9. Reid destroys Poms (1990)
Few bowlers can lay claim to a better Boxing Day Test performance than Bruce Reid’s during the 1990-91 Ashes. The towering paceman took six wickets to limit the impact of David Gower’s first-innings century, with England reaching 352 all out. Australia trailed by 46 at the end of the first innings but Reid put them in the driver’s seat with a seven-wicket haul to decimate England for 150. Geoff Marsh (79*) and David Boon (94*) then steered the hosts to an eight-wicket victory. Reid’s match figures of 13/148 were the best by an Australian on home soil in 58 years, while only Nathan Lyon (13/196 v Bangladesh in Chittagong in 2017) has taken 13 wickets in a Test for Australia since.
8. Langer’s finest hour (2002)
Justin Langer went into the 2002 Boxing Day Ashes Test in a bit of a form slump, posting just two half-centuries in his previous 13 innings. But the iron-willed opener crafted his highest Test score at the expense of the hapless Englishmen. After sharing in a 195-run opening stand with Matthew Hayden, Langer went on to make 250 in a mammoth total of 6/551 declared as Australia finished with a first-innings lead of 281. The Aussies eventually won by five wickets on their way to a 4-1 series triumph.
7. Announcing Shane Warne (1992)
Brash young leg-spinner Shane Warne’s early Test performances did not exactly project his path to cricket legend status, taking just four wickets in his first four matches in the baggy green. But the 23-year-old enjoyed a breakout man-of-the-match performance in his first Boxing Day Test in 1992. The star-studded West Indies had made a slashing start chasing 359 for victory in the fourth innings, with Phil Simmons and skipper Richie Richardson steering the tourists to 1/143. Warne, who had toiled for little reward in the first innings, tore through the Windies with 7/52 to spearhead a 139-run win. He got rid of Ian Bishop and Courtney Walsh in consecutive balls to finish off the match – then went on to terrorise every cricketing nation for the next 12 years.
6. Heroic Hughes, Legendary Lillee (1981)
West Indies were the team in world cricket in the early-1980s, while Australia were still rebuilding after the divisive World Series Cricket era. But Kim Hughes’ 100 not out – in a total of just 198 – in the face of the terrifying Windies pace attack and a crushing spell of 4/10 from Dennis Lillee, including the scalp of Viv Richards on the last ball of the day, made for a memorable Boxing Day for the Aussies in 1981. Lillee finished with 7/83, breaking Lance Gibbs’ all-time Test wickets record in the process. Australia made only 222 in their second innings to set the tourists a very gettable 220 for victory – and they were on track at 6/150. But the last four wickets fell for just 11 runs, with Lillee taking the final three via lbw decisions to finish with 10 for the match. Australia’s famous 58-run win snapped the Windies’ 15-Test unbeaten streak.
5. England win three-run thriller (1982)
Australia’s win over England in Manchester in 1902 by three runs set a long-standing Test record for the smallest margin of victory. The archrivals equalled that mark in an MCG nail-biter in 1982 – but this time England were on the right side of the result. Incredibly, all four innings produced between 284 and 294 runs. Norman Cowans’ 6/77 put England within one wicket of the win, but Allan Border and Jeff Thomson dug in for a 70-run 10th-wicket stand as Australia firmed for a famous escape. The match ended with Thompson edging Ian ‘Beefy’ Botham to the slips, where Geoff Miller snapped up an almost disastrous drop by Chris Tavare.
4. Aussie tailenders hold on for draw (1987)
A Richard Hadlee-inspired New Zealand claimed historic Test series wins over Australia on both sides of the Tasman during the 1985-86 summer. The plucky Kiwis needed a Boxing Day victory to level the 1987-88 series in the third and final Test – and they were on the cusp of squaring it up with just one wicket needed as the shadows lengthened on day five. The brilliant Hadlee already had 10 wickets for the match and was testing Australian No.10 Craig McDermott and No.11 Mike Whitney to their limit, but the pair survived a combined 50 deliveries to secure a draw and the series for the home side. Incongruously, New Zealand will make their first Boxing Day Test appearance at the MCG since in coming days.
3. Hat-trick for Shane Warne (1994)
Shane Warne took six first-innings wickets against England in the 1994 Boxing Day Test but saved his best for the latter stages of the match. The tourists began day five on 4/79, facing the near-impossible tasks of reeling in 388 for victory or surviving 90 overs for a draw. Leg-spinning phenom Warne ensured things wrapped up swiftly by dismissing Phil DeFreitas (lbw), Darren Gough (caught-behind) and Devon Malcolm (via a brilliant catch from David Boon at short leg) in consecutive balls. England crumbled to 92 all out and a 295-run loss, allowing the Aussies to crack into the VBs early on December 30.
2. Aussies crumble in Ashes classic (1998)
Australia surged to a 70-run first-innings lead on the back of Steve Waugh’s sparkling 122 not out in the 1998 Boxing Day Test. When England could only muster 244 in their second dig, an emphatic win to the hosts seemed inevitable. After a shaky start to their chase, Australia were cruising at 3/130…then all hell broke loose. Dean Headley claimed 6/60 and a fired-up Darren Gough took the last two wickets as Australia lost their last seven batsmen for just 32 – and the match by 12 runs. Waugh was left stranded and bewildered on 30 not out while four of the last five batsman trudged back to the MCG pavilion for nought.
1. ‘Warnie’ bags 700th wicket (2006)
Australia had already recovered the Ashes by the time the 2006-07 series reached Melbourne. The series became a victory lap for a quartet of retiring greats, Shane Warne, Justin Langer, Damien Martyn and Glenn McGrath – but it was the irrepressible ‘Warnie’ who enjoyed the most unforgettable send-off. In front of a packed MCG on Boxing Day, the 37-year-old bamboozled England opener Andrew Strauss with his fourth delivery to become the first player in history to take 700 Test wickets. He finished with 5/39, before Matthew Hayden (153) and Andrew Symonds (156) put on 279 for the sixth wicket in Australia’s innings victory.