The Melbourne Cricket Ground hosted the first ever Test, from March 15, 1877. In all, 106 Tests have been played at the MCG (the second most Tests at any ground after Lord’s), with Australia winning 61, losing 30 and drawing 15 matches.
Here, we look at the top five batting, bowling and all-round performances in match contexts at the MCG.
NOTE: All Impact numbers mentioned are in a match context, but in a career context, all these numbers are capped to 5.
1. Matthew Hayden: 153 v England, 2006. Batting Impact: 10.06
It was the fourth Test of the 2006-07 Ashes, and Australia had already taken an unassailable 3-0 lead. Shane Warne and Co. skittle England for 159. Justin Langer and Matthew Hayden gave the hosts a solid start by putting on 44 for the opening-wicket before Andrew Flintoff picked up three quick wickets and with support from Hoggard and Harmison left Australia reeling at 84 for 5. Hayden was joined by Andrew Symonds (more on him later in the piece) and what followed was carnage – a magnificent 279-run stand turning the match on its head.
Hayden was finally dismissed for 153 – not only scoring a large proportion of his team’s total (Runs Tally Impact) but also absorbing pressure (of the initial fall of wickets) brilliantly. Symonds made 156 as Australia scored 419. The English batting failed for a second time in the match and they were bowled out for 161, going down by an innings and 99 runs.
2. Don Bradman: 13 & 270 v England, 1937. Batting Impact: 9.97
Australia went into the third Test at the MCG having been thrashed in Brisbane and Sydney. Electing to bat first, the hosts could muster just 200 for 9 after a good all-round bowling display by England, before there was a tactful declaration (unusual for the time as it was a timeless Test) by Bradman in the first innings as he wanted his bowlers to make use of the drastic change in the condition of the pitch on day two, post a rain interruption. And sure they did. Morris Sieverts and Bill O’Reilly tormented the England batting line-up and reduced them to 76 for 9 before a declaration came from the visitors (the first time in Test history that a declaration had brought both the first innings to a close).
Bill Voce and Co. ensured their team still had an outside chance by reducing Australia to 97 for 5 before they ran into a certain Don Bradman, who was given excellent support by Jack Fingleton. The pair put together a mammoth 346-run partnership. Bradman went on to make 270, scoring a large proportion of his team’s runs (Runs Tally Impact) under pressure (of falling wickets). Australia amassed 564 and batted England out of the game. The visitors fared much better in the second innings but still went down by 365 runs.
It was the turning point of the series. Australia went on to win the next two Tests in Adelaide and Melbourne to take the five-match series 3-2.
3. Andrew Symonds: 156 v England, 2006. Batting Impact: 9.79
As mentioned earlier in the piece, it was the fourth Ashes Test and Symonds had joined hands with Hayden with Australia reeling at 84 for 5 in the first innings after England had been bowled out for 159. The pair annihilated the English attack. Symonds was the aggressor and went on to score 156 off just 220 deliveries as Australia amassed 419. The English batting failed for a second time in the match and they were bowled out for 161, going down by an innings and 99 runs. It was the highest impact batting performance of Symonds’s Test career.
4. Reggie Duff: 32 & 104 v England, 1902. Batting Impact: 9.73
England won the opener in Sydney by an innings. In the second Test at the MCG, Australia, put in, were skittled for 112 with Barnes and Blythe picking up six and four wickets respectively. Reggie Duff, a lower-order bat, top-scored with 32 (coming in to bat at 38 for 5). But Noble and Tremble ensured England fared even worse and bundled them out for 61.
Barnes was again on the rampage in the second innings and reduced Australia to 167 for 8 before Duff joined hands with Clem Hill. The pair resurrected the innings, putting together 66 for the ninth wicket before Hill fell for 99. Duff took control and in partnership with Warwick Armstrong strung together a stupendous 120-runs stand for the last wicket, batting England out of the game. He scored 104 as Australia notched up 353. The target of 405 was well beyond England and they were bowled out for 175.
Duff scored a high proportion of his team’s runs under pressure (of falling wickets) in the match.
5. Clem Hill: 15 & 99 v England, 1902. Batting Impact: 8.93
In the same MCG Test as above, Clem Hill who scored 15 in the first innings, came out to bat under severe pressure (of falling wickets) at 48 for 5 in the second innings. He rallied the innings with a 50-run stand with Sid Gregory, and added useful runs with Trumper and Noble before putting together an invaluable 66 for the ninth wicket with Duff. Hill finally fell for 99 with Australia at 233.
1. Wilfred Rhodes: 7/56 & 8/68 v Australia, 1904. Bowling Impact: 8.43
After England’s 315 in the first innings, Australia were struck hard — first by rain which ruined the pitch altogether and then by Rhodes’s bowling display upfront. Out of the top seven Australian batsmen, five succumbed to Rhodes. Rhodes also had a huge Pressure Building Impact as he took three wickets to reduce Australia from 14 without loss to 33 for 4. Rhodes eventually ended up with seven wickets in the first innings as Australia collapsed for only 122. On a deteriorating track, England could manage only 103 in their second innings and set Australia a target of 297. Australia in their second innings were again blown apart by Rhodes as he picked up eight wickets out of which five were of top/middle-order batsmen. Rhodes finished with 15 wickets in the match — a record at that time – of which 10 were of top/middle-order batsmen. What is quite shocking is the fact that even though he picked up so many wickets, eight catches were dropped off his bowling in the match.
2. Hugh Tayfield- 6/84 & 7/81 v Australia, 1952. Bowling Impact: 8.10
Trailing 0-1 in the series, South Africa squared off against Australia in the second Test and were 112 for 6 before lower-order contributions propelled their score to 227. South Africa were hit by the absence of two of their bowlers (Murray and Watkins) and Australia in reply started strongly, putting up an 84-run opening stand before Tayfield took the wicket of Arthur Morris (Partnership-Breaking Impact). Tayfield and Mansell shared almost the entire bowling load and Tayfield in an unchanged spell of four hours took six wickets out of which four were of top/middle-order batsmen to restrict Australia to only a 16-run lead. South Africa, through Russell Endean’s 162, posted 388 in their second innings to set Australia a target of 373. In Australia’s second innings, Morris was taken out early by Michael Melle and Colin McDonald, the other opener, fell soon after to Murray. Australia were reduced to 34 for 2. Of the next eight wickets to fall, seven were taken by Tayfield as he completely decimated the Australian middle order. In one period of nine maiden overs, he picked up the wickets of three middle-order batsmen and as a result had a high Economy as well as a high Pressure-Building Impact. Australia eventually fell short by 82 runs to hand South Africa their first win over them for 42 years. The series would eventually be drawn 2-2.
3. Arthur Mailey: 4/115 & 9/121 v England, 1921. Bowling Impact: 8.08
England won the toss and opted to bat in the fourth Test, the result of which was insignificant as the series was already sealed 3-0 by the Australians. England scored 284 in their first innings with Mailey the pick of the bowlers, taking four top/middle-order wickets including that of the centurion Harry Makepeace. England were going strong at 270 for 4 but Mailey dismissed Makepeace (Partnership-Breaking Impact) to trigger a collapse, the last six wickets falling for 14 runs. Australia in reply posted a first-innings total of 389. Batting a second time around, England had partnerships going at various stages but it was Mailey who broke each and every one of them as he picked up nine wickets, six of them of top/middle-order batsmen. England scored 315 in, and Australia chased down the required 211 easily with eight wickets in hand. Australia went on to win the series 5-0.
4. Sydney Barnes: 6/42 & 7/121 v Australia, 1902. Bowling Impact: 8.03
Due to consistent rains prior to the start of the Test, English captain Archie MacLaren had no hesitancy in asking Australia to bat on winning the toss. Australia, as expected, were blown apart by Sydney Barnes and Colin Blythe, who shared all 10 wickets to restrict Australia to 112. Even though Barnes picked up six wickets, he accounted for only three top/middle-order batsmen whereas all four of Blythe’s wickets were of top/middle-order batsmen. England fared even worse in their reply and were shot out for 61 — all the 10 wickets this time shared between Trumble and Noble. Australia in their second innings adopted the ploy of sending in lower-order batsmen up the order as they expected the pitch to ease out later and it worked for them. Barnes cut through the makeshift ‘top order’ to leave them at 98 for 6. He picked up six of the first seven wickets to fall and as a result had a high Pressure-Building Impact as well. Barnes ended up with 13 wickets in the match out of which nine were of top/middle-order batsmen. The Australians recovered with the help of Clem Hill and Reggie Duff as the last two wickets scored 186 runs — more than what Australia and England had combined scored in their first innings. England were set a target of 405 and fell short by 229. This match enabled Australia to come back into the series and level it 1-1. They eventually went on to win it by a margin of 4-1.
5. Sarfraz Nawaz: 2/39 & 9/86 v Australia, 1979. Bowling Impact: 8.01
Asked to bat first, Pakistan could post only 196 as Hogg and Hurst shared seven wickets amongst them. Australia in their reply were jolted by Imran Khan (4/26) with Sarfraz Nawaz (2/39) and Wasim Raja (2/23) playing support roles to restrict them to 168. Pakistan, led by Majid Khan’s 108, made 353 in their second innings to set Australia a target of 382. Sarfraz managed to dislodge both the Aussie openers but by that time Australia already had 109 runs on board. Australia were cruising through Border and Hughes’s partnership and needed only 77 runs for victory with seven wickets in hand when Sarfraz produced the fourth-highest impact bowling performance in Pakistani Test cricket history. He dismissed Border (Partnership-Breaking Impact) and then triggered a collapse of epic proportions. In all, Sarfraz took seven wickets for one run in 33 deliveries to completely decimate the Australian middle and lower order. His performance had the third-highest Pressure-Building Impact (taking wickets in quick succession to build pressure) by any Pakistani bowler in Test history — it is not the highest because three of his last seven wickets were of lower-order batsmen. Pakistan took a 1-0 lead in the series but lost the very next match and the series ended 1-1.
1. Billy Bates: 55 and 7/28, 7/74 v Australia, 1883. Match Impact: 11.27
Australia had won the Ashes opener at the MCG by nine wickets. In the second Test at the same venue, England, who chose to bat, were reduced to 199 for 7 before Billy Bates joined Walter Read at the crease. The pair stitched together an 88-run stand – the highest of the match – with Bates contributing 55 as England scored 294.
Bates then bamboozled the Australians with his offspin, picking up 7 for 28 off 26.2 overs as the hosts folded up for 114. Following on, Australia collapsed for a second time and were shot out for 153 as Bates took his match tally to 14 wickets, picking up 7 for 74 off 33 overs. England won by an innings and 27 runs and levelled the three-Test series at 1-1. Eight of Bates’s 14 wickets were of top/middle-order batsmen.
2. Frederick Spofforth: 6/48, 7/62 and 39 v England, 1879. Match Impact: 11.05
It was the only the third Test in cricket history. Frederick Spofforth, the right-arm fast medium bowler, ran through the England batting line-up, bowling them out for 113. He picked up six wickets conceding just 48 runs off his 25 overs. Australia were in slight trouble at 37 for 3 (pressure of falling wickets) when Spofforth joined hands with Alec Bannerman and put together 64 for the fourth wicket before being dismissed for 39. Australia finished with 256. The English batsmen had no answers to Spofforth in the second innings too and fell like nine pins. Spofforth picked up seven for 62 in 35 overs as Australia romped home by 10 wickets.
3. Jack Gregory: 100 and 7/69, 1/32 v England, 1920. Match Impact: 10.84
Electing to bat, Australia were 282 for 7 when Jack Gregory (left-hand batsman, right-arm fast) joined Nip Pellew at the crease. The pair put on 173 for the eighth wicket before Pellew was dismissed for 116. Soon after, Gregory registered his 100 (off just 115 balls), helping Australia amass 499.
England had recovered well from an initial setback and were looking good at 174 for 2 when Gregory broke the 142-run stand between Hobbs and Hendren by getting rid of the latter for 67. That triggered a massive collapse and England were bowled out for 251, losing their last eight wickets for 77. Gregory picked up six of these (including the wicket of the top-scorer Hobbs for 122). England, following on, succumbed to Armstrong and Co. and were bundled for 157, handing Australia victory by an innings and 91 runs.
Gregory scored a significant proportion of his team’s total (Runs Tally Impact) at a good rate, earning him a good Strike Rate Impact – not very common in Test cricket.
4. Sarfraz Nawaz: 35, 1 and 2/39, 9/86 v Australia, 1979. Match Impact: 9.93
Australia had Pakistan on the ropes at 122 for 7 after putting them in in the opening Test in 1979 before a 51-run stand between Sarfraz Nawaz, the No. 9, and Imran Khan gave the total some respectability. Nawaz made 35 but it had a high Runs Tally Impact (proportion of runs scored) as Pakistan managed only 196. His innings also had a high Pressure Impact value. This was his batting contribution in the match. His bowling contribution is described in detail in the ‘Bowling Performances’ section of this article. Combined, he had a massive all-round impact on the match.
5. Billy Barnes: 58 and 3/50, 6/31 v Australia, 1885. Match Impact: 9.22
England elected to bat in the second Test at the MCG in 1885. Billy Barnes, batting at No. 3, came in with the score reading 28. He made 58, putting together 116 with Arthur Shrewsbury to set up England’s total of 401. Barnes then picked up three wickets conceding just 50 runs off his 50 overs as Australia were dismissed for 279. Following on, the Australian batsmen again ran into the right-arm fast medium pace of Barnes, who bettered his first-innings figures and picked up six for 31 off 38.3 overs. Australia collapsed to 126 all out and England completed a 10-wicket victory.
Barnes’s propensity to pick up wickets, restrict the opposition batsmen and create pressure (of falling wickets) came to the fore in the performance.
Nikhil Narain/ Soham Sarkhel