The Christmas Day Test everyone forgot

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For most Australians, cricket on Christmas Day probably means a backyard game with the family, or maybe a spot of beach cricket. But there may come a time – perhaps sooner than you think – when a BBL match is scheduled for Christmas night.

There have been post-Christmas rumblings in the past couple of years, and not just those caused by too many serves of plum pudding.

“I think there is a growing sentiment that it is a possibility,” Cricket Australia’s chief executive James Sutherland said on ABC radio during the Boxing Day Test last month.

“We need to think about the right venue for it and we also need to consult widely. We understand it’s not just a narrow-minded cricket decision […] But I think it is an opportunity and it would be a good thing for the game.”

It would be easy to believe such a concept imitates the sporting landscape in the United States, where Christmas Day games have become a tradition in the NBA: five matches were played on December 25 last year.

NFL games have also occasionally been played on Christmas Day.

In fact, elite cricket in Australia has a history of Christmas Day play going much, much further back.

In 1926, South Australia hosted Queensland in a Sheffield Shield match that started on Christmas Day, and thus began a tradition that continued until 1969.

In most years during that time, the two teams met in a Shield fixture at Adelaide Oval that included play on Christmas Day – typically, Christmas was only a rest day if it happened to fall on a Sunday.

Occasionally the South Australians instead played the touring England side, and in those cases Christmas was made a rest day. But such was Adelaide Oval’s affinity with Christmas Day cricket that twice the ground hosted Test matches that featured play on December 25. In 1951, West Indies wrapped up victory on Christmas Day over an Australia side captained by Arthur Morris.

And in 1967, Australia hosted India in a Test that started at Adelaide Oval on Saturday, December 23. Christmas Eve was a Sunday, so it was the rest day. But by Christmas morning – a Monday – the players were again out on the field representing their country. Perhaps the most remarkable thing about this unusual occurrence is that hardly any of the Australians involved recall playing a home Test on Christmas Day.

Ian Chappell: “We didn’t play on Christmas Day… did we?”

Bill Lawry: “I don’t recall it.”

Alan Connolly: “I can’t remember anything about it […] It would be against my thoughts to play cricket on Christmas Day, that’s for sure.”

David Renneberg: “I didn’t think it was Christmas Day that we played, I thought it was Boxing Day. I wouldn’t play on Christmas Day if I could help it. I think there’s enough of it. I think a bit of family time on Christmas Day would be fine.”

Even the captain, Bob Simpson, was rendered almost speechless to be told that he had played an Adelaide Test on Christmas Day. “That’s amazing!” he said. “What year did you say? Let me write that down…”

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