Sunday, 7 November 2010

Ashes advent calendar: The Boxing Day Test Match

The Boxing Day Test Match has become a great tradition in Australian cricket, thanks to a combination of glorious summer weather, one of the world's largest test venues and good old Christmas cheer. This year's Boxing Day match will be the tenth to form part of an Ashes series, with the score currently standing at 5-3 in favour of the home side with one draw.

The first Boxing Day Test match was played in 1950, but it only became a firm fixture in the calendar as late as 1980. Prior to this Sheffield Shield matches were usually played on or around Boxing Day, and they always proved to be a popular feature.

For many years the record for a Boxing Day Test crowd stood at 85,661 people, who crammed into the MCG to watch Thompson and Lillee demolish Clive Lloyd's West Indian side in 1975, before being surpassed in 2006. That year an astonishing 89,155 people were privileged to watch local boy Shane Warne take his then-record 700th wicket as Australia wrapped up the match in three days to take a 4-0 lead in the Ashes series.

Several other notable cricketing events have taken place on Boxing Day, not the least of which was Darrell Hair's No-Balling of Muttiah Muralidaran for a suspect bowling action, triggering the prolonged (and on-going) debate about throwing, doosras, carrying angles, and 15 dregrees of straightening. 

This writer, having never ventured south of the Equator, can't quite fathom what it must be like to celebrate Christmas in glorious summer sunshine, much less what it's like to spend Boxing Day at a Test match, but can imagine well enough to be extremely envious. The closest we get in the UK is a cold, probably soggy football match, provided the pitch isn't either frozen or waterlogged.

Did you know: in South Australia Boxing Day is also known as Proclamation Day, a public holiday to celebrate Cpt John Hindmarsh's proclamation of South Australia as a British Province in 1836. This proclamation actually took place on December 28th, but for the sake of convenience the holiday is tacked on to Christmas day, with formal civic celebrations still being held on the correct date.

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