English winters are a terrible thing. Cold and wet, the season also means no home cricket whatsoever.
Christmas is one shining light in the fog of the cold and to add to this the thought of an annual test match that starts on Boxing Day and usually held under blue skies and warm temperatures is one that stirs the imagination and one that I will raise a cold beer to.
Boxing Day tests have been held every year since 1980 (except 1989 when a one day match vs Sri Lanka was played instead (boo – ed) and at the Melbourne Cricket Club in Australia – aka the MCG). They have also been dominated by some massive crowds (which have approached six figures on occasion).
So with the weather outside truly frightful I’ve taken the opportunity to have a look back at a few recent(ish) games to see how teams have fared against their Antipodean hosts.
Sri Lanka were the visitors last year and were simply blown away. Mitchell Johnson was the chief destroyer back then (ring any bells), taking four wickets and hitting an unbeaten 92. Clarke hit a ton in what was an excellent year for him and Shane Watson and David Warner hit useful half centuries. The hosts’ first innings total of 460 was far too much for Sri Lanka to handle, Kumar Sangakkara comfortably top scoring across both their innings with 58. Victory to Australia by an innings and 201 runs.
Batting collapses from both teams (India were the visitors) dominated the 2011 game. Ed Cowan on debut opened for the Aussies and hit a half century as did Ricky Ponting. For the visitors the erstwhile trio of Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and Virender Sehwag (over 450 test matches and more than 37,000 test runs between them) all scored over 50. With honours almost even after the first two innings Australia’s top order collapsed but were pulled back from the brink thanks to meaningful contributions from Ricky Ponting and in particular Michael Hussey. Second innings resistance by the Indians was futile; James Pattinson did the majority of the damage with a four wicket haul. Comfortable victory for Australia.
England made a far better fist of things then they are doing presently when they turned up in 2010. They gave the Aussies a cricketing lesson, with Jimmy Anderson and Chris Tremlett tearing though the host’s in their first innings – who were bowled out for less than 100. England then turned the screws in uncompromising style, clobbering them for over 500 with Jonathan Trott hitting a massive century and Alastair Cook, Andrew Strauss and Matt Prior all making significant contributions. Australia fared little better second time around (Tim Bresnan the chief destroyer) and England ran out victors by an innings and more.
Before that Australia gave Pakistan a good old-fashioned twonking in 2009 with an all-round team effort with all the batsmen scoring runs and all the bowlers taking wickets.
So that leads me on nicely to this year’s encounter. Perhaps fittingly for the 26th December, England suffered yet another sucker punch as the visitors flattered to deceive. England actually managed to fashion a handy lead after the first innings but back came the usual frailties to haunt them. Some of the batting was simply idiotic. Ex-opener and successful Ashes captain Michael Vaughan had some extremely strong words for his former charges. Too right. It’s not been good enough all series – a lot of players have let a lot of people down this series – will this defeat deliver the fatal knock out punch to England – or will they pull themselves up from the canvas and deliver a belated Christmas present to the much suffering fans?
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