For as long as I can remember, the day after Christmas meant that there was a test match on at the MCG, the Boxing Day test. It is like a ritual. You have Christmas, opening presents in the morning, a special lunch and special dinner, perhaps drinking a bit of champagne, and then the next five days would be cricket, from December 26th to December 30th, then a day off for New Year’s Eve, then the New Year’s Day test at the SCG. This is a ritual of Australian cricket, and of Australia’s culture as a whole.
In spite of being born in Melbourne and spending the first 6 and last 7 years of my life in Melbourne, I have only been to two Boxing Day test matches at the MCG, one against England in 2013 and the other against India in 2014.
The 2013 Ashes series was most well known for Mitchell Johnson, whose performance in the Adelaide Oval test match was regarded as possibly the greatest test bowling effort of all time.
I went to the first day, on Boxing Day, with 3 of my mates, and we got tickets right behind Mitchell Johnson’s arm. We were high up in the stands, in the cheap seats, the nosebleed section, but we got to watch him storm in, in the form of his life, in a series where he won 2 man of the match awards and should probably have won 4, out of 5 tests. It was simply phenomenal.
We knew who would win the test before the day even started. Everyone knew. So long as Mitchell Johnson continued this form, we would win. The English fans we met were all resigned to the defeat they were going to be subjected to. They didn’t even mind. They were happy to be a part of history, to see such amazing bowling. They were just disappointed that they didn’t get to see him at his absolute best, at Adelaide Oval.
The few that had been to Adelaide Oval, when Mitchell Johnson took 7 for 40 on a lifeless pitch to bowl England out for 172 after Australia had declared at 9 for 570 told us all the stories of how good he looked. He was good in parts at the WACA, but it wasn’t the same.
Australia bowled first, which in many ways felt like it was showing Jonno off, and he frustrated us too. He didn’t take any of the first 4 wickets, and it was right at the end of the day when he took his first, and second, wickets, of Ben Stokes and Jonny Bairstow.
We went in for the second day as Mitchell Johnson cleaned up the tail to finish with 5 wickets as England crumbled to 255 all out.
England did well to bowl Australia out for 204 all out, a total that would have been a lot worse if not for some late order hitting by Brad Haddin, and, batting last, we were actually trailling, but we never felt like we were behind in the game. With Mitchell Johnson, it always felt like we’d win, and even the English supporters weren’t particularly confident. We were all in agreement – without Johnson we’d probably have lost but, since he’s there, in that kind of form, we are always going to win.
Johnson only took 3 wickets in the second innings, but one of them was the captain Alastair Cook, who was until then looking like leading his side to greatness, but if anything it was more exciting when Johnson flew in the air to hit the stumps on the full to run Joe Root out. 3 wickets plus a runout, to go with 5 wickets in the first innings is basically 9 really, we all reasoned, but he didn’t get his 10.
231 was supposed to be a difficult target but somehow we got there with 8 wickets to spare, with Chris Rogers getting a century and Shane Watson, in at number 3, cruising along with 83 off 90 balls.
But Mitchell Johnson earned the man of the match award, for the 2nd time in the series, and he probably should have earned 4 of them.
The atmosphere was electric, and the feeling was amazing. Our hero, the great moustached Mitchell Johnson, wearing his handlebar moustache with pride, had won us the game, and we had got exactly what we wanted: not only had Australia won but the hero had won it for us.
Sudi – Dale Steyn’s heroics 2008
Not content with five wickets in the First Innings, Dale Steyn hit 76 with the bat to help the Proteas get a first innings lead. If that wasn’t enough for man of the match, another five for in the second innings sealed the deal. One of the best Boxing Day Test efforts ever.
Jai – Warnie’s Hat-Trick 1994
I love Australia winning the toss and electing to bat. I love the Aussies on 300 plus by day’s end. I love Boonie’s moustache. So to see it (or him) dive low and take the catch off Warnie’s delivery to complete a hattrick is possibly my favourite boxing day test moment. It is. It is my favourite.
Dan – Langer Double Century 2002
Never a fan of those batsmen who were graceful or stylish I took an instant liking to the fighting efforts of Justin Langer, which makes his Boxing Day efforts in 2002 one of the most memorable I can remember. With Matthew Hayden he put on 195 for the first wickets as the Australians ground England into the dirt. It would take the tourists 578 minutes to dismiss him, in which time he had compiled his highest Test score of 250.
Bozza – 700 for Warne 2006
Having been the King of Boxing Day for 15 years it was no surprise that Shane Warne would deliver a moment to remember in his last appearance in Australian Cricket’s biggest Test Match. With their favourite sun on 699 wickets, a monster crowd of 89,000 packed into the MCG with hopes of seeing Warne break the 700 barrier. It would take nearly 50 overs, but their wait was rewarded with a ripping delivery to dismiss Andrew Strauss seeing the sheik of tweak to the record mark. He wasn’t finished there though, having cracked the English batting lineup open he would take full toll finishing the innings with his 37th and final five wicket haul.