The Boxing Day Test. A glorious tradition.

The iconic MCG that hosts the Boxing Day Test
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The iconic Boxing Day Test starting at the Melbourne Cricket Ground here on Saturday will be India’s 100th match in the traditional format against Australia.

The two countries first played a Test series in 1947-48.

In the 99 Tests, Australia have won 43 times while India has emerged victorious on 28 occasions.

Twenty-seven fixtures were drawn affairs and one match was tied.

India have won three Boxing Day Tests out of the 13 matches. Australia have won eight while two were drawn matches. Last time around, India had registered a 137-run win over Australia in 2018.

India are trailing 0-1 in the ongoing four-match Test series after losing the first day/night match by eight wickets. The visitors suffered the embarrassment of scoring their lowest Test innings score of 36 in their second essay.

India have made four changes in their playing XI while Australia are set to field an unchanged side at the MCG.

Rich history

The history of Boxing Day matches dates to 1892 when Victoria and New South Wales clashed at the MCG (Melbourne Cricket Ground) in a Sheffield Shield match over the Christmas period.

December 26 was, however, just one of the scheduled playing days and not the starting date of that match.

The first Boxing Day Test match was played during the 1950–51 Ashes Test Series. That year, the Melbourne Test was played from December 22 to 27, through Christmas, with the fourth day falling on Boxing Day. Australia won a thriller by just 28 runs.

After South Africa’s tour of Australia in 1952, there were no Boxing Day Test matches held from 1953 until 1966. Test matches on Boxing Day resumed in 1967, against India, but it was held at the Adelaide Oval and started on December 23.

The Boxing Day Test match returned to the MCG the following year against the West Indies, and it started on its traditional date but the subsequent years, the calendar remained erratic. Either the traditional day was skipped, ended on the said day or was held at the Adelaide Oval.

Prior to that, the MCG had seen only four Test matches between 1952 and 1980, held in 1968, 1974 and 1975. Adelaide held three Boxing Day Test matches as well, in 1967, 1972 and 1976.

Milestone matches

The 1975 Boxing Day Test match, where the Australian cricket team had defeated the West Indian side led by Clive Lloyd by eight wickets, had gained iconic status with nearly 85,000 visitors at the MCG on the first day.

The Indian cricket team had first played Australia in a Boxing Day Test in 1985 and have been frequent visitors to the MCG since. India have been part of the Boxing Day Test eight times – in 1985, 1991, 1999, 2003, 2007, 2011, 2014, and 2018.

However, India have lost five times and drawn twice in their eight Boxing Day Test matches, with their only win at the MCG coming in 2018 where Virat Kohli’s men rode on Cheteshwar Pujara’s century to register a massive 137-run win over the hosts.

The other Indian centurions in Melbourne are Virender Sehwag, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane and Sachin Tendulkar.

Pandemic effect

Call it Boxing Day Test: Global Pandemic Edition. A cap of 30,000 spectators who will be spread out over the mammoth MCG stadium. To put that into perspective, India’s previous visit drew 73,000 on day one!