Revisiting India’s Boxing Day bouts at the MCG

share this article

As the battle for the coveted Border-Gavaskar Trophy heats up, here is trip down memory lane to revisit India’s past Boxing-Day encounters at the MCG.

India has never yet won a Boxing Day Test. Both their previous wins at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (1977, 1980) came before the venue became a traditional December 26 fixture.

The build-up to this year’s Boxing Day Test could hardly have been more exciting, as Australia and India resume their quest for supremacy after having won a Test apiece in what is shaping up to be a fascinating series. The iconic Melbourne Cricket Ground has become synonymous with Boxing Day over the years, and few other stadia can match its electric atmosphere when packed to the rafters on this much-awaited public holiday.

India’s first Test at the MCG was back in 1947-48, but during those days, there was no fixed Boxing Day Test on the calendar. The first time that India contested a Melbourne Test beginning on December 26 was only in 1985-86, which was their sixth appearance at the venue. Since then, they have played the traditional fixture seven times, but are yet to emerge victorious — both of their wins at Melbourne (1977-78 and 1980-81) so far have come in non–Boxing Day matches.

As the battle for the coveted Border-Gavaskar Trophy heats up, here is trip down memory lane to revisit India’s past Boxing-Day encounters at the MCG.

An opportunity goes abegging — Second Test, 1985-86

One of India’s brightest chances to prevail on Australian soil was the three-match series in 1985-86, what with the hosts going through a rough patch — earlier in the season, Australia had lost a home series to New Zealand for the first time. India had Australia on the mat at 127/6 after Kapil Dev elected to field, but a sprightly 100* from Greg Matthews improved the total to 262. Kris Srikkanth (86), Dilip Vengsarkar (75) and Kapil (55) led the Indian reply, ensuring a lead of 183.

Australia were ahead by only 48 when last man Dave Gilbert came out to join captain Allan Border early on the final day. The duo frustrated India with a stand of 77, before Border fell for a valiant 163. Even then, India required a modest 126. However, they plodded to 59/2 from 25 overs at tea, despite a rain threat looming. As fate would have it, the last session was washed out, and the defensive tactics ultimately cost the Indians the series, which ended with a 0-0 scoreline.

Reid’s dozen floors India — Second Test, 1991-92

Looking to bounce back after a ten-wicket rout in Brisbane, India were offered little respite, as gangly left-arm paceman Bruce Reid made short work of their batting. Had it not been for wicketkeeper Kiran More’s 67*, India would have ended up with a lot less than 263. Reid (6/66) collected the first of his two six-wicket hauls in the Test, and had India tottering at 64/4 at one stage. Geoff Marsh’s obdurate 86 then helped Australia to a lead of 86, even as Kapil took 5/97.

Another top-order failure reduced India to 79/5, and even though Vengsarkar (54) and Sachin Tendulkar put on 62 for the sixth wicket, Australia never loosened their grip. Reid was India’s scourge again, as he bettered his first-innings return with 6/60 this time. Australia, served by Mark Taylor’s composed 60, duly motored to an eight-wicket win on the fourth day. Reid’s 12/126 remains the best returns by an Australian bowler in a home Test against India.

Tendulkar wages a lone battle — Second Test, 1999-00

On many an occasion in the 1990s, India’s batting fortunes revolved solely around Tendulkar. A glaring example of the team’s overdependence on the ‘Little Master’ was provided in the second Test of the forgettable 1999-00 tour Down Under when, as captain, he was the only batsman to take the fight to Steve Waugh’s Baggy Greens. Australia piled up 405 after being inserted, with Michael Slater (91), Ricky Ponting (67) and Adam Gilchrist (78) doing the bulk of the scoring.

 

 

Tendulkar walked out to the middle at 11/2, up against a buoyed attack comprising of Glenn McGrath, Damien Fleming, Shane Warne and debutant Brett Lee. Sourav Ganguly aided him in raising 77 for the fourth wicket, but, other than that, he was on his own, compiling a sublime 116 out of a total of 238. Lee made his debut memorable by snaring 5/47. Set an improbable 386 to win, India could only muster 195. Not surprisingly, Tendulkar was the top-scorer again, with 52.

Ponting overshadows a Sehwag special — Third Test, 2003-04

A famous four-wicket win at Adelaide had put India in the unfamiliar position of being 1-0 up in the four-match series, and, when the swashbuckling Virender Sehwag took charge on the opening day at the MCG, it seemed that the elusive series win in Australia was there for the taking for India. Sehwag blitzed his way to an audacious 195 off 233 balls, sharing in partnerships of 141 with Aakash Chopra and 137 with Rahul Dravid for the first and second wickets respectively.

Frustratingly for India, the advantage was squandered as the innings nosedived from 278/1 to 366 all out. Matthew Hayden (136) and Ricky Ponting deflated them further through a second-wicket stand of 234 that put Australia well in control. Ponting struck a career-best 257, powering his team to 558 (Anil Kumble 6/176). Dravid (92) and Ganguly (73) tried their best in the second dig, but it was too late to repair the damage. Chasing 95, Australia raced to a nine-wicket victory.

A drubbing to begin with — First Test, 2007-08

Australia came into this series on the back of 14 consecutive Test wins dating back to December 2005. On the other hand, this was India’s first overseas assignment under newly-appointed captain Kumble. Things looked ominous from the outset, as openers Phil Jaques (66) and Hayden (124) put on 135 at a fast clip. The Indian bowlers, spearheaded by Kumble (5/84) fought back to limit the total to 343, but the batting caved in to the pace of Lee and Stuart Clark.

Only Tendulkar (62) crossed fifty as India were knocked over for 196. Australia declared their second innings at 351/7 late on the third day, leaving India with over two days to deal with a hefty target of 499. VVS Laxman and Yuvraj Singh briefly gave the visitors hope of at least seeing through the fourth day, but the former’s wicket triggered a collapse of seven for 43, handing Australia a win by 337 runs. This was India’s third-biggest Test defeat in terms of runs.

New series, same old sinking feeling — First Test, 2011-12

 

 

Four months after being blanked 4-0 in England, India were back on the road for another arduous overseas series. Not for the first time, they started off a series reasonably well, only to quickly lose the plot. Replying to Australia’s 333, India were placed at 214/2 as the second day drew to a close. After a rapid 67 from Sehwag, the seasoned pair of Dravid and Tendulkar had grown their third-wicket stand to 117, when the latter was removed by Peter Siddle for 73 just before stumps.

Dravid followed suit, perishing to Ben Hilfenhaus (5/75) for 68 in the first over of the third day, and his dismissal led to a capitulation, India folding up for 282 runs. Rookie pacer Umesh Yadav rocked Australia’s top order to leave the score at 27/4, but Ponting (60) and Michael Hussey (89) revived the innings with a fourth-wicket alliance of 115. India came a cropper in their chase of 292, and tumbled to defeat by 122 runs. The series culminated in another painful 4-0 hammering.

Match drawn, but trophy lost — Third Test, 2014-15

India’s chances of retaining the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, which they had wrested back with a historic 4-0 whitewash at home in 2012-13, were left hanging by a thread after losses in the first two Tests at Adelaide and Brisbane. Australia were reduced to 216/5 on a good batting surface, but captain Steven Smith, who finished with 192, rallied with the lower order to swell the total to 530. Murali Vijay began India’s response with a fluent 68 before becoming the third man to fall, the score at 147.

Virat Kohli (169) and Ajinkya Rahane (147) joined forces for a delightful partnership of 262 for the fourth wicket, but their efforts could not yield India a lead, as the score slid from 409/3 to 465 all out. Australia proceeded to go for the kill, and had India in trouble at 19/3 in their chase of 384. However, they had to settle for a draw, as India staggered to 174/6. Captain MS Dhoni dropped a bombshell just after the match, announcing his Test retirement with immediate effect.

share this article
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor