My unmissable moment: Boxing Day Test cricket
When it comes to the Ashes series Down Under that starts this week, if you’re in the UK you know most of it’s going to be missed.
Unless you’re able to exist on zero hours sleep, or you’re working nights, or you’re an exhausted new parent – you’ll do well to see much of the 25 days cricket live.
So, it boils down to preparation: for which hours are you going to sacrifice sleep? The first moments of the series? The opening of the second Test at the beautiful Adelaide Oval? Get up early for a session from Perth?
For me, it’s never been a contest. Christmas Day in the UK has always meant the same thing: family, presents, drinking, eating and, since Sky Sports started broadcasting live Test cricket from Australia, whoever’s playing, the first session of the Boxing Day Test in Melbourne at the vast MCG pictured.
Australia’s day, usually
It’s a date-in-the-diary for almost all Australians – and the ground is so big, most of them actually get a ticket. It’s a summer’s day beamed into my winter and from 1995 to 2007, Australia played the best and brightest cricket in the world. Even if it was often at England’s expense, it was hard not to enjoy.
And the sun invariably shines. Except the once – the day I actually found myself in Melbourne on Boxing Day in 2006. England playing Australia. Then it was 8ºC. In the height of the Aussie summer, they’d actually had a white Christmas on the Victorian hilltops surrounding the city. It was freezing but such is the power of the antipodean sun, we all got burned.
England got thumped and Shane Warne took his 700th Test wicket then ran round the ground like he’d be stung by a Sydney funnel-web.
But that’s the point of Boxing Day cricket: there’s always a story – and some of them have even given England fans reason to cheer. One of my earlier memories is England winning the Ashes on the ground in 1986 with Gladstone Small taking the catch.
Last time round, three Boxing Days ago, England had one of their greatest Test days of all time, bowling Australia out for under 100 then finishing on 157 for 0. It was as close to perfection as any day’s play could get – and it was against the Aussies, on their big day. I did sacrifice more than an hour’s sleep that night.
This year, I’ll be watching the clock from the time the Christmas pudding’s finished – keeping my eyes pinned open till midnight and hoping that something close to that recent history can repeat itself.
Edward Craig is former deputy editor of The Wisden Cricketer magazine
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