The MCG Test is a time of celebration; Christmas is over and people are braving the Boxing Days sales or enjoying the holidays with family and friends. The MCG is the backdrop for these events. The iconic stadium is usually packed out on Boxing Day and everyone’s in a festive mood.
This Australia v West Indies match will test the marketability of Boxing Day; the Windies were flogged inside three days in Hobart and aren’t expected to improve. If their loss to the Cricket Australia XI is anything to go by, Australia could send out their “A” team and still win comfortably. Perth’s BBL game against Brisbane at the WACA that evening will arguably gain more attention.
The West Indies haven’t played at the MCG since the 2000/01 whitewash, with subsequent Test tours over before Christmas.
They have a poor record at the MCG, with three wins, 10 losses (including seven straight from 1931 to 1976) and one draw.
The West Indies’ wins came in 1979/1980, 1988/89 and 1996/97.
Dec 29, 1979 – Jan 1, 1980. West Indies won by 10 wickets
Following the humiliation of 1975/76, the West Indies were building their eighties power side. After the Brisbane draw, the West Indies won emphatically in Melbourne and Adelaide. By stumps on day one at the MCG, the West Indies were 1/103 with Michael Holding (4/40), Colin Croft (3/27) and Joel Garner (3/33) decimating Australia for 156 in 56.3 overs. Sir Viv Richards (96), Sir Andy Roberts (54), Gordon Greenidge (48) and captain Clive Lloyd (40) extended the lead to 241 early on day three. Kim Hughes (70) and Bruce Laird (69) stood up to Croft (3/61), Roberts (3/64), Garner (2/56) and Holding (2/61), but the damage was done.
Dec 24-29, 1988. West Indies won by 285 runs
Nine years later, the West Indies were the most feared Test team in the world and made the MCG their playground. Patrick Patterson (4/49) and Curtly Ambrose (4/60) gave the West Indies a 38-run first innings lead. A Richie Richardson century (122), supported by captain Richards (63) and Jeff Dujon (46) set Australia 400 early on day five. Patterson’s 5/39 (match figures of 9/88) destroyed Australia for 114 and sealed the Frank Worrell Trophy.
Dec 26-28, 1996. West Indies won by six wickets
Australia’s historic 1995 Caribbean win started the West Indies’ decline into mediocrity. While Australia won the 1996/97 series 3-2, the West Indies used Melbourne (and Perth) to remind Australia of past glories. Ambrose’s 5/55 dismissed Australia for 219 on Boxing Day, with Greg Blewett (62) and Steve Waugh (58) providing some resistance. Half-centuries to Jimmy Adams (74 not out), Shivnarine Chanderpaul (58) and Junior Murray (53) earnt a lead of 36, mostly restricted by Glenn McGrath (5/50). Australia’s reply lasted just 46 overs thanks to Ambrose (4/17), Kenny Benjamin (3/34) and Courtney Walsh (3/41). Chanderpaul’s 40 guided the West Indies home with few dramas.
This upcoming Boxing Day Test could be the West Indies’ last in Melbourne, as they’re likely to be demoted to pre-Christmas fodder on future visits. Nobody expects them to win, but hopefully they can put up a fight.