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The Boxing Day Test Match at the MCG and 5 Great Cricket Traditions

Chris TealeFeatured ColumnistDecember 25, 2013

The Boxing Day Test Match at the MCG and 5 Great Cricket Traditions

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    The start of the Boxing Day Test in Melbourne represents the start of one of cricket’s finest traditions in the long history of the sport.

    The day after Christmas at the MCG is not the only custom that cricket fans hold dear, as there are others around the world that are always special to witness.

    Read on for five of the sport’s best traditions.

Boxing Day Test

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    The Melbourne Cricket Ground first staged a Test on Boxing Day in 1950, as the fourth day’s play between England and Australia fell on December 26 of that year.

    However, from 1953 to 1967 there were no Tests played at the MCG on Boxing Day, so the tradition could not take hold.

    The modern tradition commenced in 1974, as the six Test Ashes series meant the third Test at the MCG had to start on December 26 so all games could be fit into a relatively tight schedule.

    From 1980, the game has been played annually, with Australia victorious on 18 occasions, their opponents winning seven games and seven being drawn.

    The only time since 1980 that a Test match has not started on Boxing Day at the MCG was in 1989, when a One-Day International between Australia and Sri Lanka was played instead.

    For good measure, Australia won that one too, by 30 runs.

Baggy Green

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    On the subject of Australia, the next tradition revolves around the cloth caps worn by all their players, known as the Baggy Green.

    A source of tremendous national pride among Australians, the cult of the green cap gathered momentum under captain Mark Taylor and was given even greater precedence by his successors Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting.

    From the early 1990s onwards, a practice emerged under Australian players never to replace the Baggy Green they were awarded on debut, with its level of disrepair a sign of seniority.

    Waugh especially was proud to wear the same Baggy Green through his 17-year Test career, despite criticism from former Australian batsman Neil Harvey, who described his hat (per BBC Sport) as “bloody terrible.”

    Another tradition surrounding the Baggy Green takes place during Australia’s first session in the field in a Test match, as every player wears their green cap as a show of solidarity.

    Even players like Shane Warne, who preferred a floppy sun hat, would take part in the ritual, showing the enormous sense of pride that all Australian players take from the Baggy Green.

The Lord’s Bell

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    Lord’s cricket ground in London, known as the “Home of Cricket”, has its own tradition revolving around the bell in the pavilion.

    Five minutes before every day’s play, the bell is rung to signal that the players are about to take the field.

    It happens for international and county matches, as the ground is also the home for Middlesex County Cricket Club.

    Being given the opportunity to ring the bell has become a great honour in recent years, with a number of former players given the chance to do so.

    Former New Zealand wicket keeper Ian Smith is one to describe its importance for players, telling Lords.org: “As a player you’re up there waiting for the sound of the bell and you know that’s the moment to really switch on."

Taking a Hat-Trick

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    One of cricket’s great traditions involves the taking of three wickets in three balls, a superb achievement known as a hat-trick.

    The word “hat-trick” comes from the first instance of a player taking three wickets in consecutive balls—H.H Stephenson for the All-England Eleven against Hallam in Sheffield in 1858.

    After the game, a collection was held and Stephenson was presented with a hat bought from the proceeds, and the tradition was born.

    The purchasing of a cap has since died out, but taking a hat-trick in cricket is still seen as a very noteworthy achievement given its rarity, as only 40 have been taken in Tests and 34 in ODIs.

Numerical Superstitions

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    Cricketers are nothing if not superstitious, and there are a few scores for both teams and individuals that bring some nerves among those who believe bad things will happen.

    The most notable is “Nelson”, a term applied to scores of 111, 222 and subsequent multiples when scored by a team or a batsman.

    There are a number of theories about Nelson’s origins, one being that 111 looks like a wicket without bails and another surrounding Lord Nelson’s physical inadequacies.

    The usual ritual is for all players to keep their feet off the ground while Nelson is on the scoreboard, despite research showing that wickets are no more likely to fall on Nelson than at any other time (per BBC Sport).

    The late David Shepherd was legendary as an umpire for raising a leg while on the ground when Nelson came on the scoreboard, something that delighted the spectators.

    Australia have a superstition of their own surrounding the number 87, known as the “Devil’s Number” as it is 13 runs less than 100.

    This aversion to 87, believed to be a number on which wickets fall, is not backed up by statistics and is in fact a myth.

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