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Team India's no show in Boxing Day Tests

Last updated on: December 23, 2011 10:22 IST

Team India's no show in Boxing Day Tests

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Norma Godinho

India has played only a handful of Boxing Day Tests and their record at the MCG is not very impressive. Both teams have played each other in five Tests, four of which have been won by Australia and one ending in a draw. Norma Godinho looks back on those contests.

A Boxing Day Test is more than just an event on the cricketing calendar; it has assumed the importance of a ritual. The match, played on the first day after Christmas at the MCG, is as sacred as attending the midnight mass to ring in the birth of Christ.

And history is proof that Boxing Day matches are the most keenly-contested in the Australian summer. The first ever Boxing Day Test was played between England and Australia in 1950, which was won by the hosts. Australia have never looked back since and won more Boxing Day Tests than they have lost.

The Aussies have also been merciless on visiting Indian teams of yore. Over the years, India has played only a handful of Boxing Day Tests and their record at the MCG is not very impressive. Both teams have played each other in five Tests, four of which have been won by Australia and one ending in a draw.

Leading up to the first Test between India and Australia, beginning Monday, Rediff.com looks back on Boxing Day clashes between the two sides.


Image: MS Dhoni interacts with fans
Photographs: Getty Images

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1985-86, Match drawn

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The first ever Boxing Day face-off between India and Australia ended in a tame draw.

In a three-match Test series, both teams came to Melbourne after drawing the previous Test in Adelaide. Coming to Melbourne, one team had to push for a win to keep the series alive. But none of this happened.

Instead, the Test where Steve Waugh made his debut (all he could muster was 18 runs in the match) ended in a draw.

Put in to bat, Australia were dismissed for 262, Ravi Shastri, (4 for 87) being the wrecker-in-chief.

India then posed a strong reply, all out for 445, on the back of half centuries from captain Kapil Dev, Krishnamachari Srikkanth and Dilip Vengsarkar.

In their second essay Australia were bundled out for 308.

Needing 126 to win, India declared at 59 for 2 in the 25th over, and the match was drawn on the fifth day of the Test, after the dismissal of Srikkanth and Gavaskar.


Image: Ravi Shastri
Photographs: Getty Images

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1991-92, Australia won by 8 wickets

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India's next shot at winning a Boxing Day Test came six years later. It turned out to be a series where a 19-year-old Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar made his mark, but the Indian cricket team could not compliment his success.

India came into the Boxing Day Test following a ten-wicket defeat in Brisbane, courtesy some excellent bowling from Aussie pacemen Craig McDermott and Bruce Reid.

There was more humiliation in store for the visitors at the MCG.

Reid continued from where he left off at Brisbane, scalping six wickets (6 for 66) --- Ravi Shastri, Srikkanth, Vengsarkar among his victims. His fiery spell saw India fold for 263 in the first innings.

On a bouncy MCG track, Kapil Dev (5 for 97) and Manoj Prabhakar (4 for 84) combined to keep the Australian lead to just 86. Geoff Marsh (86), Ian Healy (60) and Dean Jones (59) countered the Indian bowling to take their total to 349.

With an 86-run cushion, the Australian bowlers came out in full force to ensure no freebies were given to the Indians. And, again, Bruce Reid was the man of the moment, grabbing another six-wicket haul to have the Indians dismissed for 213.

Chasing 128 for victory, Mark Taylor (60) and David Boon (44) led the Australians to an eight-wkt win and Bruce Reid walked away with the man-of-the match honours.


Image: Sachin Tendulkar
Photographs: Getty Images

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1999-2000, Australia won by 180 runs

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Eight years after that humiliation, the Indians returned to Australia, this time under the captaincy of Sachin Tendulkar.

They were thrashed by 285 runs in the opening Test at Adelaide and knew they had a lot of work ahead of them going into the Boxing Day Test.

Winning the toss, Tendulkar put the Aussies in to bat in hope that his opening bowlers Javagal Srinath and Ajit Agarkar would make an early breakthrough.

Srinath did justice to Tendulkar's decision by dismissing Greg Blewett and Justin Langer and had the Aussies reeling at 2 for 28. But resilience is an Australian characteristic and that was shown by Michael Slater (91) and Mark Waugh (41) who together steadied the Aussie ship.

Slater was unlucky to miss his century, but the lower-order batsmen chipped in with useful contributions to take the total to 405.

Srinath was India's most successful bowler, with four wickets, but not before getting whacked for 130 runs in his 33.1 overs.

In reply, India got off to a poor start, losing the top three batsmen for under 10 runs. But it was Tendulkar who smashed a century (116) and salvaged some pride before the Indian innings folded at 238.

With a five-wicket haul against his name, debutant Brett Lee was the pick of the bowlers for Australia.

The home team then added 208 runs to their 167-run lead and asked the Indians to chase down a target of 375.

The Indian batsman once again failed to put up a fight and even Tendulkar's fifty couldn't rescue the team as they went down by 180 runs.


Image: Michael Slater
Photographs: Getty Images

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2003-04, Australia won by 9 wickets

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India went back to Australia in the 2003-04 season and this time they had a real chance of clinching the series. They had an aggressive captain in Sourav Ganguly and batsmen of the calibre of VSS Laxman, Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid.

Also, the Aussies were without the services of their top two bowlers -- Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne -- out with injury. All this was a perfect platform for a series win. But it was not to be.

After drawing the first Test in Brisbane and scripting a convincing win in a memorable Adelaide Test, India were just a win away from winning the series. And, so, next came another Boxing Day challenge.

Virender Sehwag lit up the first innings with his lusty hitting after India won the toss and elected to bat. His 195 was the only stand-out performance, the next best score being 49 by Rahul Dravid.

Stuart MacGill did most of the damage for the Australians with his three-wicket haul.

Ricky Ponting's 257 and Matthew Hayden's 136 were the highlight of Australia's first innings score of 558.

With a 192-run lead, the Aussies were in control of the match and pacer Brad Williams (4 for 53) starred with the ball.

Despite heavy scores by the big three -- Dravid 92, Ganguly 73 and Tendulkar 44 India were all out for 286.

Chasing 95 to win, Matthew Hayden (53) and Ricky Ponting (31) took the Aussies home and levelled the series 1-1.


Image: Ricky Ponting
Photographs: Getty Images

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2007-08, Australia won by 337 runs

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It was one of the most controversial series played between the two sides. It was the first time India was opening a series with a Boxing Day Test at the MCG. The Christmas spirit was all around but there was no cheer for the Indians who couldn't have started a series in worse fashion.

Ponting and Kumble were leading the two teams and a close contest was expected. But it was far from that.

Electing to bat first, Australia put up 343 after a superb century by Matthew Hayden (124). 

Kumble (5 for 84) and Zaheer Khan (4 for 94) did the good work for the visitors.

Now it was up to the Indian batsmen to compliment the work put in by the bowlers.

However, they put up a spineless display, with only Tendulkar (62) and Ganguly (43) doing a noteworthy job with the bat.

India were eventually dismissed for a paltry 196, Stuart Clark (4 for 28) and Brett Lee (4 for 46) wrecking them.

On resumption of their second innings, the Aussies declared on 351 for 7 with all the batsmen chipping in with vital contributions.

Adding to their 150-run lead, the Indians were made to chase a target of 499 for a win. Mitchell Johnson and Brett Lee bowled lethal spells to dismiss the Indians for 161 with a day to spare.

And, so another Boxing Day Test ended in despair for the Indians.


Image: Anil Kumble
Photographs: Getty Images

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