India will come into the Boxing Day Test at Melbourne on the back of their lowest-ever Test score and without their captain – things are not looking rosy whatsoever.
Can the visitors bounce back in the coliseum? Here’s Australia’s recent record in Boxing Day Tests at the MCG: in the 21st century the hosts have won 15 of their 20 contests, drawing two and losing just three.
Nonetheless, this might offer some hope to all the Indian fans out there: a recap of the Australians’ last five Boxing Day Test defeats.
1996 – West Indies won by 6 wickets
In the Caribbean the previous year, Australia had ended West Indies’ run of 15 years without a Test series loss, and they proceeded to go up 2-0 in a five-match series ahead of the third Test at the MCG. However, the visitors bounced back in Melbourne, thanks largely to Curtly Ambrose, who followed up figures of 5-55 in Australia’s first innings with 4-17 in their second. A low-scoring affair was settled inside three days, with the Windies chasing down a target of 87.
1998 – England won by 12 runs
A memorable win in a drab decade for England fans. Down 2-0 to the Australians, England batted first in the fourth Test, with an Alec Stewart century taking them to 270, before Steve Waugh’s ton and some lower-order runs from Stuart MacGill helped Australia claim a 70-run lead. A target of 175 was eventually set for the hosts in the final innings, and a 3-0 lead looked likely as Australia reached 103-2. A superb grab by Mark Ramprakash at square leg off a pull from Justin Langer gave hope but the resurgence was truly kickstarted when Dean Headley took four wickets – three of them for the loss of no runs – as Australia fell from 130-3 to 140-7. Headley went on to collect his sixth of the innings but it was Darren Gough who finished the job, bowling MacGill and Glenn McGrath in the space of three balls to seal victory.
2008 – South Africa won by 9 wickets
This historic South African win consigned the Australians to their first home series defeat in 16 years, and Dale Steyn was at the heart of it – with both bat and ball. A Ricky Ponting century was the standout innings as Australia put 394 on the board before South Africa were reduced to 184-7 and then 251-8 in their reply. Accompanying JP Duminy – who finished on 166 in just his second Test – for the ninth wicket was Steyn, who contributed 76 in a stand of 180. With a deficit of 65, Australia were then bowled out for 247 as Steyn took five more before the tourists raced to their target of 183.
2010 – England won by an innings and 157 runs
The nadir of a miserable Ashes series for Australia. After levelling the series 1-1 at Perth, the hosts had a nightmarish Boxing Day, with England bowling them out for 98 before Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook hit unbeaten half-centuries. A monster first-innings total of 513 was anchored by Jonathan Trott’s 168 and Tim Bresnan made his Ashes debut a memorable one, taking four wickets in Australia’s second innings to ensure England retained the Ashes.
2018 – India won by 137 runs
India only have to look at themselves for inspiration ahead of the second Test; they triumphed in the Boxing Day Test just two years ago to take an unassailable 2-1 series lead. A Cheteshwar Pujara century and half-centuries from debutant Mayank Agarwal, Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma lifted India to 443 before they declared, and then came a Jasprit Bumrah masterclass: his 6-33 – including a memorable slower ball to Shaun Marsh – decimated Australia. A Pat Cummins six-for saw Australia bounce back but Bumrah finished with nine in the match in a crushing win.