Sports Gazette

by sports journalism students at St Mary's University, London

England’s Top 5 Boxing Day Test moments

Posted on 10 December 2018 by Benjamin Jones

When Christmas is over, what’s left? The long days with nothing happening that seem to have no point, when you’re trying to keep yourself awake after stuffing yourself the previous day.

What better way to fill that time than with a test match? The Boxing Day Test match is a tradition for many, and here we take a look back at England’s top five most memorable involvements.

5. 2017 — Match drawn 

Joe Root’s first taste of an Ashes series as captain was a bitter one. The urn was already lost by the Melbourne test, but England gave their best performance of the series.

Former captain Alastair Cook had contributed only 83 runs in the previous three matches, but showed his class in the fourth.

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He scored an unbeaten 244 — including 27 fours — at a strike rate of 59.65, sprightly for Cook’s standards, to set England on their way to their highest score of the series, 491. In the process, Cook became the youngest player to score 12,000 test runs. 

The game was also memorable for Tom Curran as he made his Ashes debut. He thought he had his maiden wicket when he had David Warner caught on 99 only to find out he had overstepped the line, but he was not to be denied when he forced player-of-the-series Steve Smith to chop-on.

England were eventually frustrated by Smith’s century in the second innings, but had plenty of positive to take away from the match. 

4. 1998 — England won by 12 runs

The 1998-99 tour turned out to be another unhappy one. England again headed into the Boxing Day test 2-0 down, knowing a defeat would give Australia the Ashes.

They got off a strong start though thanks to captain Alec Stewart’s 102 and they posted 270. This was blown out of the water by Australia’s 340 in reply, led by Steve Waugh’s 122.

Trailing by 70, things get off to the worst possible start for England in the second innings as Michael Atherton’s duck saw him collect a pair for the match.

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Half centuries from Stewart, Nasser Hussain and Graham Hick restored some credibility, but 175 still looked an easy chase. England got to work straight away with Dean Headley and Alan Mullally removing the Aussie top order.

Even so, 130-4 meant the final six batsmen needed just 45 between them, but they could only manage 45, including four ducks, as Headley ripped through them on his way to taking six wickets.

Darren Gough took the final two wickets, removing Stuart MacGill and Glenn McGrath to secure a 12-run victory.

3. 1982 — England won by three runs

The 1982-83 Ashes tour was not a memorable one for England. Their only win came in the fourth test, but it turned out to be one of their most dramatic of all-time.

Just three runs separated the sides after the first innings, Australia’s score of 287 gave them the advantage. In the second innings, Graham Fowler top scored with 65 as England posted 294, leaving the hosts needing 291 to win.

Already leading 2-0, they looked well on course to complete the series victory when David Hookes and Allan Border put on a century partnership for the fourth wicket.

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However, Norman Cowans took the third of six wickets to disrupt the Australians. Border batted through and his 80-run stand with number 11 Jeff Thompson put Australia just three runs from victory.

Step forward Ian Botham. His delivery targeted the body of Thompson who could only edge to Chris Taveré at second slip.

It was a simple catch, but the ball popped up. Any chance of winning the Ashes looked to have been dropped, but Geoff Miller spared his blushes by diving forward from first slip to complete the catch and a dramatic three run victory.

2. 1986 — England won by an innings and 14 runs

Finally, an England series win, and it was sealed in the Boxing Day Test inside three days.

Mike Gatting’s side held a 1-0 lead after victory in Brisbane followed by draws in Perth and Adelaide. They made light work of Australia as Ian Botham and Gladstone Small both took five-wicket hauls, bowling them out for 141.

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England seized control of the match thanks to Chris Broad’s 112 as he became the third Englishman in history to score centuries in three consecutive Ashes tests.

Trailing by 208, Australia had a mountain to climb to save the match and never looked like doing it, especially when Geoff Marsh was run out when on 60.

Despite Botham going wicketless, Australia could only drag themselves to 190. Small took the catch to dismiss Merv Hughes off the bowling of Phil Edmonds and complete the victory.

The defeat was Australia’s 14th straight in test matches and sparked a public argument amongst the Australian selectors. Allan Border criticised the decision to play only four specialist batsmen, fuming his desire to pick Greg Ritchie was overruled.

1. 2010 — England won by an innings and 157 runs

England’s biggest margin of victory in a boxing day test came in 2010 as they retained the Ashes.

Australia were bundled out for 98 in the first innings as Jimmy Anderson and Chris Tremlett took four wickets a piece. Michael Clarke top scored with 20, a total passed by six English batsmen.

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England did not lose a wicket until they had racked up 159 runs, Cook going for 82. Andrew Strauss, Kevin Pietersen and Matt Prior all passed 50, Prior reaching 85, but Jonathon Trott was the star of the show, his 168 not-out saw England score an imposing 513.

Australia offered a little more resistance in the second innings. They made their way up to 258, but never looked like avoiding a crushing defeat.

England not only treated their fans to a wonderful spectacle of cricket but also to their rendition of the sprinkler dance.

Featured photograph/Richo in Oz