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Ask most Australian cricketers and they’ll tell you the Boxing Day Test is the pinnacle match to play in.
And since the turn of the century, we’ve witnessed many unforgettable moments of brilliance, as well as some that have turned to disaster, at the MCG.
Foxsports.com.au has ranked the 20 most memorable Boxing Day Test performances — good or bad, single moments or an overall innings — of the 21st century.
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1. Shane Warne takes his 700th Test wicket — Australia v England, 2006
Anyone who was at the MCG will never forget the second ball of Shane Warne’s first over that Boxing Day.
The Australian spinner — and proud Victorian — delivered the perfect leg break to England opener Andrew Strauss, pitching the ball just outside off before spinning back sharply between Strauss’ bad and pat and hitting the stumps to claim his 700th Test wicket.
Shane Warne bowled Andrew Strauss for his 700th wicket. Picture: Michael DodgeSource: News Limited
As Warne took off in celebration, the noise generated by the near 90,000 fans at the ground was something else.
Warne has always paid tribute to his ‘script writer’, as many of his greatest cricketing moments couldn’t have been scripted better. And this one — in his second last Test at his home ground against England in front of a massive crowd — was arguably his best.
2. Andrew Symonds’ maiden Test hundred — Australia v England, 2006
Previously regarded as a white-ball specialist, Symonds was struggling to cement his spot in the Australian Test team prior to this knock.
He’d passed 50 twice and made it into the 20s several times, but couldn’t go on for that elusive triple-figure score. Prior to Australia’s first innings, his average was just 18.47.
Then the day after Warne’s magical 700th wicket moment, Symonds produced one of his finest innings of his career.
With the Aussies reeling at 5-84, Symonds strode to the MCG wicket to join fellow Queenslander Matthew Hayden. He took 21 deliveries to register his first single — and then the runs started to flow.
Andrew Symonds couldn’t contain his excitement with Matthew Hayden. Picture: William WestSource: AFP
Symonds brought up his maiden century with a towering six down the ground. He let out a massive roar of relief and jubilation, raised his bat in the air and leapt into Hayden’s arms. He was so excited — he revealed 12 years later he was “drunk on adrenaline” — that he crushed himself so hard onto Hayden’s head that he left the latter with a big blood blister on his forehead.
Symonds would finish with 156, while Hayden manufactured 153 — his fifth century in six Tests at the MCG — in a colossal, near seven-hour knock that set up Australia’s win. The duo put on 279 for the sixth wicket, which remains the fourth-highest sixth-wicket stand by an Australian pair in Test history.
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3. That ‘Nice Garry’ wicket — Australia v Pakistan, 2016
You kind of had to be there. It was so silly, yet so brilliant.
Aussie wicket-keeper Matthew Wade’s encouragement towards Nathan Lyon using the term ‘Nice Garry’ — Garry being Lyon’s nickname after Melbourne AFL champion Garry Lyon — had quickly become a social phenomenon. So much so that a Facebook event urging the crowd to yell “Nice Garry” after the third ball of his first over against Pakistan in 2016 saw 20,000 users indicate they were ‘attending’ or ‘interested’.
The MCG went bananas after Nathan Lyon’s first wicket. Picture: Wayne LudbeySource: News Corp Australia
So come the third ball of Lyon’s first over, the anticipation and noise as Lyon ran in to bowl to Sami Aslam was like he was about to send down a hat-trick ball.
Then the twist: Lyon actually took the wicket of Aslam, who pushed forward to a sharp off-break and edged to Aussie skipper Steve Smith at slip.
The pre-ball noise was insane — the post-wicket decibels were off the charts.
The power of Facebook, hey? Nice Garry.
4. Virender Sehwag’s Day 1 insanity — Australia v India, 2003
He’d already made a century on debut and pommeled a hundred against England at Trent Bridge. But Sehwag’s savagely powerful knock of 195, which was made in less than a day in front of a vociferous Australian crowd, was an immense statement to the cricketing world.
The quintessential Sehwag traits were on show, smashing 25 fours and five sixes as he showed off exquisite timing. Yet it wasn’t an eccentric knock with ample risks taken — although he was dropped, survived two close run out and chances and hit on the helmet three times.
Virender Sehwag was in devastating form. Picture: Wayne LudbeySource: News Limited
But Sehwag also showed ample patience and discipline, particularly at the start of his innings when Aussie pacemen Nathan Bracken and Brett Lee were bowling tight line and lengths.
Eventually Sehwag would fall, smashing a Simon Katich full toss to Bracken at wide long-on. But he received rapturous applause as he left the MCG, for everyone in attendance that Boxing Day knew they’d witnessed something pretty special.
5. Ricky Ponting’s highest Test score — Australia v India, 2003
The day after Sehwag’s insanity, the Australian vice-captain responded with one of his great Test innings. Statistically it was his best ever.
Ponting was at the peak of his powers in 2003. Two weeks before the Boxing Day Test against India, he’d pummelled his then-highest Test score of 242 off just 352 balls.
Come the MCG clash, Ponting was more restrained and patient — his new career-high of 257 came off 458 deliveries — yet just as commanding, playing very few false shots as he put on a back-foot masterclass.
Ricky Ponting made a stunning double ton. Picture: Colleen PetchSource: News Limited
While Sehwag was the only Indian threat with the bat in the first innings, Ponting found support from Boxing Day test specialist Matthew Hayden, who made 136 and combined with Ponting for a second-wicket stand of 234 to set up a relatively easy win for Australia.
For the record, Ponting finished his 11-match 2003 calendar with these relatively healthy numbers: 1503 runs at an average of 100.2, six centuries (including three double centuries) and four 50s. The guy could play a bit.
6. Australia’s nightmare day sets up England’s Ashes win — Australia v England, 2010
From a pure on-field performance perspective — so that eliminates the ball tampering saga in Cape Town — there haven’t been many worse days for Australian cricket than Boxing Day 2010.
With the Ashes tied at 1-1, Australia had to win the fourth Test to keep the series alive, as England only needed a drawn series result to retain cricket’s most famous trophy.
By stumps on the first day, England already had one hand on the Ashes after a disastrous Australian batting display.
Kevin Pietersen led the post-Test celebrations. Picture: Scott BarbourSource: Getty Images
After England won the toss and elected to field first, Jimmy Anderson and Chris Tremlett ran amok on a gloomy Melbourne day, taking four wickets apiece to help bowl Australia out for 98 — Australia’s second-lowest Test total ever at the MCG.
To rub salt into the wounds, England had passed Australia’s total — and still hadn’t lost a wicket — by stumps, with Alastair Cook and Andrew Strauss guiding the tourists to 0-157.
Just over three days later, England bowled Australia out again to seal a massive win by an innings and 157 runs.
It also meant it retained the Ashes in Australia for the first time in 24 years — and led to the team’s famous ‘sprinkler’ celebration in front of the Barmy Army.
7. Justin Langer’s finest Test innings — Australia v England, 2002
This was Langer at his best.
The left-hander combined with great mate and opening partner Matthew Hayden for another big opening-wicket stand of 195, with Hayden also making an imposing century.
But after Hayden’s dismissal, Langer went on to make his highest Test score in a defiant display against a helpless Indian attack.
Back foot or front footy, off-side or on-side, in the air or on the ground — Langer pulled out his full arsenal of strokes and time the ball superbly, much to the delight of a packed MCG crowd.
Justin Langer made his highest Test score.Source: News Limited
Langer brought up his century on Boxing Day with massive six over long-on, punching the air in an emotional celebration. The next day, when he passed 200 for the second time then 250 for the first time, he soaked in the rapturous applause.
He was soon caught at backward point soon after, but the damage Langer had inflicted on England was match-defining.
8. The highest score by an overseas batsman — Australia v England, 2017
With the Ashes back in Australian hands and his team — and him individually — underperforming, Alastair Cook entered the 2017 Boxing Day Test under pressure.
Five days later, the England great departed the MCG with the highest Test score by a visiting player and the knowledge that he’d just denied Australia of registering a 5-0 Ashes whitewash.
After David Warner and Steve Smith inspired the Aussies to another strong first innings total, Cook managed to take the game out of Australia’s hands with gritty, determined, resilient and uncompromising Test match batting.
Alastair Cook was unstoppable against Australia. Picture: William WestSource: AFP
The left-hander monumentally carried his bat, finishing 244 not out after more than 10 hours at the crease and 409 balls faced. It was the longest Test innings by any overseas batsman in a Test since Cook’s unbeaten knock of 235 at the Gabba seven years earlier.
Cook’s innings, which usurped the 208 by West Indian Viv Richards in 1984, forced a few changes in the MCC Reserve, with his name replacing Richards’ at the ground’s Bullring bar.
9. Dale Steyn’s perfect Test and South Africa’s perfect result — Australia
It’ll go down as one of the great matches in South African history to cap off arguably the nation’s finest cricket calendar year.
After losing in Perth, Australia began the Melbourne Test in promising style, putting together 394 in the first innings — off the back of an excellent Ricky Ponting century — then having South Africa to 7-198 at stumps on day two. And when the Proteas slumped to 8-251, hopes of victory seemed long gone.
Then Dale Steyn joined JP Duminy at the wicket. And the duo produced an unlikely yet series-defining partnership and comeback.
South Africa pair JP Duminy and Dale Steyn put on a match-winning partnership. Picture: Joe CastroSource: AAP
In just his second Test, Duminy played with wisdom beyond his years, scoring his maiden century in what would ultimately be his highest Test score of 166, while Steyn conjured his maiden half-century and, also, his highest Test score of 76.
Duminy and Steyn would combine for a stand of 180 — the fourth-highest ninth-wicket partnership in Test history — as they embarrassed and exposed an inexperienced bowling attack, which had lost Brett Lee to injury mid-Test.
Steyn, who’d also snared five wickets in the first Australian innings, backed up his efforts with the bat in Australia’s second innings, taking 5-67 to finish with 10 scalps for the match and leaving his team with just 183 runs to win.
And when Hashim Amla hit the winning runs with a quintessentially graceful shot off his pads, it sealed South Africa’s first-ever series victory in Australia — and the Aussies’ first home series loss since 1992-93.
10. Shane Watson’s pair of nervous 90s — Australia v Pakistan, 2009
This was a nerve-racking, excruciating viewing experience for Aussie fans — and no doubt nerve-racking, excruciating experience for Watson to endure.
Earlier in the year, Watson had established himself as Australia’s next Test opener. He’s passed 30 in nine of his 10 innings prior to the Boxing Day Test, but had never gone on to triple figures.
Both Watson and opening partner Simon Katich seemed destined for tons against Pakistan before a calamitous mix-up brought about the former’s downfall.
Shane Watson scored his maiden century. Picture: Julian SmithSource: AAP
Watson was on 93 when he took off for a single after Katich had pushed a ball into the covers cover. But as Katich retreated to the striker’s end, Watson kept running, leaving both men at the same crease as the run-out was completed at the bowler’s end. Replays showed Katich’s foot had hit ground a split second before Watson, who trudged off the MCG with a seventh Test half-century to his name.
Watson hadn’t been the only Aussie to reach triple figures that summer, with Katich, Brad Haddin, Michael Hussey, Marcus North and Michael Clarke all passing 70 but getting out before the 100 mark.
But Watson finally broke the century drought in the second innings — albeit just. He spent an agonising 39 deliveries and 67 minutes in the 90s — he went into the lunch break 98 not out — before, on 99, he was dropped by Abdur Rauf at gully, allowing him to scamper through for a single and register his maiden Test century.
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11. Waugh’s scratchy innings — Australia v England, 2002
Before that memorable day at the SCG against England, the under-fire Waugh produced one of his most unconvincing knocks in his career — one, he later admitted, was hampered by a migraine.
After a defiant 77 in the first innings, Waugh strode to the MCG wicket in the fourth innings with Australia needing just 24 runs for victory.
It all came to a head during one Steve Harmison over.
First England failed to appeal a caught behind decision after the ball lightly brushed Waugh’s bat off a rising Harmison delivery.
Steve Waugh had a tough second innings. Picture: Michael KleinSource: News Limited
The Aussie captain then smashed a ball straight to extra cover where counterpart Nasser Hussain took a sharp catch — only for the umpire to call a no-ball. Waugh had almost walked off the ground before realising he still hadn’t been officially dismissed.
Waugh then drove Harmison straight down the ground for four, drawing boos and jeers from a vociferous Barmy Army.
He would eventually lose his wicket to Andy Caddick, out for a scratchy 14 off just 30 deliveries to ensure he entered the SCG Test under high scrutiny.
12. Mike Hussey’s timely ton and unlikely 10th-wicket stand — Australia v South Africa, 2005
When Hussey arrived at the MCG for the 2005 clash with South Africa, he’d quickly established himself as a Test-quality middle order batsman after waiting years for his opportunity.
The reputation was only further enhanced against the Proteas when he scored his third Test century and combined superbly with Glenn McGrath.
Mike Hussey and Glenn McGrath put together a 10th-wicket partnership of over 100. Picture: Colleen PetchSource: News Limited
Hussey started the Day 2 on 23 and had only added four runs to his tally when Stuart MacGill departed to leave Australia 9-248. But as McGrath kept his wicket and Hussey consistently hit the rope — despite the Proteas’ field being well back — the Aussies’ total grew.
Hussey scored 122 to help the Aussies to 355. McGrath contributed 11 not out as the pair put on 107 — the highest 10th-wicket partnership for Australia against South Africa
13. One of the great classy, pure Test match knocks — Australia v England, 2010
While Australia’s horror first-day performance and Ricky Ponting’s run-in with Aleem Dar stole the headlines, Jonathan Trott calmly and methodically put together one of the great Test innings at the MCG of the past 20 years.
Trott came into the Melbourne Test in terrific touch after scoring three centuries and four half-centuries during an outstanding 2010 calendar year.
Jonathan Trott produced a brilliant knock in 2010.Source: News Limited
Then he produced arguably his finest knock of the 12-month period, finishing 168 not out off 345 balls.
He was far from flashy, yet his control and discipline was impeccable as he barely made an error in his eight-hour knock.
14. David Warner caught on 99 … off a no-ball — Australia v England, 2017
Just when England had something to celebrate something in what had been an ordinary Ashes series to date, Tom Curran’s first test wicket was ripped away from him.
Aussie opener David Warner was in the middle of a quintessentially blistering first-day knock. By the 41st over, Warner had raced to 99 off just 128 balls.
Then in search of his century, Warner appeared to completely botch his golden moment, playing a half-hearted pull stroke off Curran that lobbed to mid-on for a simple catch.
David Warner was caught, but not out after a no ball. Picture: Mark StewartSource: News Corp Australia
But as a livid Warner walked from the ground and a jubilant England side celebrated, TV replays indicated Curran had over-stepped the popping crease by millimetres, leading to a no-ball.
Warner was brought back to the middle — and the next ball, he tucked Curran into the leg-side for a single to bring up a dramatic 21st Test century.
Warner would only make another four runs before Jimmy Anderson dismissed him caught behind — and Curran would eventually snare his first Test wicket when he bowled in-form Aussie captain Steve Smith.
15. Lyon and Starc bowl Aussies to remarkable victory – Australia v Pakistan, 2016
For four days, the Australia-Pakistan Test meandered along and was seemingly set for an inevitable draw. Azhar Ali made a gutsy 205 not out before Steve Smith and David Warner responded with their own centuries — and Mitchell Starc clobbered 84 handy runs — to give the Aussies a 181-run first innings lead just before lunch on the final day, giving them two sessions to bowl Pakistan out.
Mitchell Starc and Nathan Lyon bowled Australia to victory over Pakistan. Picture: Julian SmithSource: AAP
Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc struck early to leave Pakistan at 2-6. Azhar and veteran Younis Khan managed to sow the tempo of the game down before Nathan Lyon — fresh off his first-innings third-ball heroics — takes three consecutive wickets as the Pakistanis struggled to deal with his bounce. Starc then cleaned up the tail in the final session to hand Australia an unlikely win.
16. Pacemen shine with nine-wicket hauls – 2018
The 2018 Boxing Day Test was an absorbing battle, with India’s stronger batting line-up ultimately the difference between the two teams.
But it’ll ultimately be renowned as the Test that saw Jasprit Bumrah and Pat Cummins emerge as the new star quick bowlers in world cricket.
As his teammates struggled to threaten India’s top order, Cummins bowled with heart, passion and discipline to be Australia’s biggest threat with the ball.
Jasprit Bumrah inspired India to victory. Picture: Julian SmithSource: AAP
After removing India’s top three in the first innings, Cummins roared to life in the second innings, taking 6-27. Late on the third day, he ripped through the visitors’ middle order, removing Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli for ducks before Ajinkya Rahane was caught behind for one in a devastating spell of fast bowling that had a touch of Dennis Lillee about it,
But ultimately, Australia’s top order had no answer for Bumrah, whose pace and bounce proved too hard to combat. He took six wickets in the first innings then three in the second — including the prized wicket of Cummins, who batted bravely in his knock of 63 — to win man-of-the-match offers.
17. Langer v Shoaib — Australia v Pakistan 2004
You couldn’t have asked for a better contest within a contest between two fierce competitors.
Pakistan’s Shoaib Akhtar was the quickest bowler of his generation — and when he was fiery, there was no scarier sight in world cricket.
Justin Langer, one of the toughest batsmen of the 1990s and 2000s, experienced Shoaib at his most ferocious in 2004.
Justin Langer traded words with Shoaib Akhtar. Picture: Michael DodgeSource: News Corp Australia
After removing Matthew Hayden and Ricky Ponting cheaply, Shoaib took out his energy on Langer, sending down a breathtaking over where he constantly hit 150km/hr. Not only that, he gave Langer some lip — to which Langer returned serve.
In the middle of the over, Shoaib bowled a no-ball — and Langer let him know all about it, holding out his arm to mimic the umpire’s signal, just in case Shoaib was unaware of his misstep.
18. Andy Bichel announces himself on the Test stage — Australia v West Indies, 2000
When you think of late ‘90s, early 2000s Aussie pacemen, the energetic and always entertaining Andy Bichel immediately springs to mind.
And Melbourne-based cricket tragics got to see the best of Bichel against the West Indies at start of the 21st century.
Andy Bichel dismissed Brian Lara on his way to a five-wicket haul. Picture: George SalpigtidisSource: News Corp Australia
After a Steve Waugh century helped Australia to 364 in the first innings, Bichel — who was in just his fifth Test — roared to life and thrived on the MCG stage.
The right-armer dismissed superstar batsman Brian Lara, thanks to a sharp catch at second slip by Mark Waugh, before removing Jimmy Adams and Ridley Jacobs to have the MCG rocking. He took two more wickets to register his maiden five-wicket haul.
19. Mitchell Johnson all-round game – Australia v Sri Lanka, 2012
If it wasn’t enough for a lowly Sri Lanka side to be subjected to his pace with the ball, in the 2012 Boxing Day Test, Johnson unleashed his talent with the bat on Mahela Jayawardene’s side.
After claiming four wickets in the first innings, Johnson joined in the fun with the bat, finishing on 92 not out.
Mitchell Johnson tore Sri Lanka to shreds. Picture: Hamish BlairSource: AAP
At one stage, Mike Hussey was playing second fiddle to Johnson, who hit seven fours.
Johnson then backed up his batting feats with another two wickets in Sri Lanka’s innings to win man of the match honours as the Aussies won inside three days.
20. Batting feast – Australia v India, 2014
The MCG wicket has been renowned for being batsmen friendly over the years. Yet if you’re a fan of big scores, you would’ve loved what was dished up during the 2014 Boxing Day Test.
In his second Test as captain, Steve Smith showed leadership sits comfortably with him as he produced a stunning 192-run knock in the first innings. He batted superbly with the tail as he edged towards his maiden double century before he was bowled trying to play a ramp shot.
Australian captain Steve Smith made 192. Picture: Julian SmithSource: AAP
But India’s star pair wasn’t to be outdone, with Virat Kohli (169) and Ajinkya Rahane (147) both scoring big tons. They combined for a partnership of 262 — the sixth-highest fourth-wicket stand by an Indian pair in Test history.
Shaun Marsh was on the verge of joining the century makers in the second innings, only to be run out by Kohli for 99 chasing a quick single.