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7 moments from Boxing Day Tests at the MCG

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Boxing_day_Test_cricketThe momentous Boxing Day Test between Australia and England of the 2017-18 Ashes began on the 26th of December at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, and is currently high on the excitement of a double century from veteran English opener Alastair Cook. The traditional Boxing Day Tests, no matter the opposition, have held a special significance in Australian cricket’s legacy for quite some time now.

The Boxing Day Tests became a tradition only in the 1980s, though there has been the odd Test on the 26th since the early 50s. Throughout its rich history, Boxing Day Tests have witnessed umpteen unforgettable and priceless moments that have added such great colour to the history of Boxing Day.

2003: Virender Sehwag’s dazzling 195

On the first day of the 2003 Boxing Day Test between Australia and India, opener Virender Sehwag provided the momentum for the visitors with a dazzling hundred. After India chose to bat first on a good Melbourne wicket, the right-handed opener was struck on the helmet by a Brett Lee bouncer early on. From then on Sehwag, as was his wont, began scything the Australian quicks with absolute nonchalance. He was even more severe on leg-spinner Stuart MacGill who he carted around for 48 runs from just 35 deliveries.

Sehwag was dismissed in the deep for a glorious 195 off just 233 balls with 25 fours and five sixes as he attempted to reach his double ton by smashing a low full-toss from part-timer Simon Katich. Though India later squandered the momentum they had gained and went on to lose the Test match by 9 wickets, Sehwag’s sensational knock thoroughly delighted the 62,613 people present at the MCG that day.

2007: Shane Warne’s 700th wicket in his last Boxing Day Test

It was a fairytale achievement for the most successful leg-spinner of all time and it was fitting that it came in a Boxing Day Ashes Test. Australian legend Shane Warne played the last Boxing Day Test of his career against England in the 2007 Ashes. On the opening day, after England had chosen to bat first, Warne claimed his 700th Test wicket – the first man in the history of the game to do so – in front of a boisterous 89,000-strong crowd.

Warne dismissed left-handed England opener Andrew Strauss with a ripping leg-break that shattered the batsman’s stumps. It was a milestone moment of Warne’s career that had been widely anticipated days before the match. Warne ended with a brilliant 5-39 in the first innings that eventually helped Australia clinch the match by an innings and 99 runs.

1999: The arrival of Brett Lee

Australian speedster Brett Lee burst onto the international scene with a sensational five-wicket haul on Test debut against India in the Boxing Day Test of 1999. The visiting Indian side were trying to overhaul a strong Australian total of 405 in their first innings, but were halted by a rampaging Brett Lee.

The 23-year-old youngster, clocking speeds of over 150 km/h, first knocked over Sadagoppan Ramesh’s stumps with just his fourth ball and then removed Rahul Dravid a little later with a ripper. Lee went on to add three more wickets to his kitty to finish with a spectacular 5-47 in his debut innings for Australia.

It was a magnificent display of fast bowling as Lee, through his accurate use of raw pace and prodigious bounce, dismantled the opposition. This performance helped Australia win the match by 180 runs and also announced the arrival of Brett Lee as a true speed force to the cricket world. The rest is history.

2008: South Africa claims its ‘finest Test win’ in Australia

South African captain Graeme Smith had described it as the country's "finest win" and he had every reason to make that claim. The Boxing Day Test of 2008 between Australia and South Africa was a cracker of a contest.

It was the second Test of the 3-match series with South Africa having won the first Test. On batting first, the home side posted a solid 394, courtesy a classy century from captain Ricky Ponting (101). JP Duminy’s splendid 166 helped South Africa take a valuable 65-run lead in reply. Australia needed to set a good target but Dale Steyn spewed fire and his scorching spell of 5-67 - one of the finer Boxing Day fast bowling efforts – kept Australia to just 247 despite another gutsy 99 by Ponting.

Requiring 183 runs for victory, South Africa cantered home with 9 wickets to spare with captain Graeme Smith leading from the front with a sound knock of 75. Not many teams have been able to topple Australia in back-to-back Tests, but South Africa did this superbly and registered a series-clinching victory in this memorable Boxing Day miracle.

1998: Dean Headley’s sensational 6-60 stuns Australia

The 4th Ashes Test on Boxing Day of 1998 was a true thriller. 0-2 down in the series, the visiting England side desperately needed a victory to save face. However, their performance was inconsistent and after managing just 270 and 244 in their two innings, England could only set Australia a target of 175 runs.

The home team was cruising along and at 103-2 and victory looked certain for Australia. But then English seamer Dean Headley produced a sensational spell to rip through the Australian chase. It was a fourth day MCG pitch and had enough spice in it. Headley bowled his heart out and moved the ball both ways to topple one batsman after the other.

The Australian middle and lower order panicked and could not contain Headley’s swing. Within no time, Australia had crashed to 140-7. Headley and Darren Gough picked up the final three wickets in the space of five deliveries to achieve an incredible, nerve wracking 12-run victory. Headley ended with a career-best 6-60.

1981: Kim Hughes stands up to the might of the West Indian bowling

Ian Chappell regards it as the bravest innings he has seen. In the 1981 Boxing Day Test between Australia and West Indies, the home side was under pressure after batting first as the West Indian pace quartet of Joel Garner, Colin Croft, Andy Roberts and Michael Holding wreaked havoc. From 26-4 to 59-5, the Australian batting was in tatters. Only Kim Hughes, who had come in to the crease at 3-8, stood tall and displayed exceptional grit to battle the menacing battery of fast bowlers.

The first day wicket had inconsistent bounce and the West Indian fast bowlers were on fire. But Hughes weathered the storm and with his steady technique quietly went about collecting runs even as wickets fell around him. He forged a vital 43-run partnership with No.11 Terry Alderman, finishing with a splendid, unbeaten 100 off 200 balls with 11 fours, that helped Australia post a respectable 198.

Dennis Lillee ripped apart the West Indies batting and Australia recorded a memorable 58-run win. But it was Kim Hughes’ performance on a difficult track, where he took on the fearsome West Indian pace quartet valiantly, which was the defining moment.

 

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