As Australia head into the Boxing Day Test with an unassailable three-nil lead, it inevitably sparks seven-year-old memories of another Ashes series won before a Christmas ham was carved.
In December 2006, the MCG was filled with holiday cheer as an Australian side bursting with more talent than an overstuffed Christmas stocking romped to their fourth resounding victory of the summer – by an innings and 99 runs – over an English side in disarray.
On the field, the likes of Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath, Brett Lee, Adam Gilchrist, Andrew Symonds and Matthew Hayden ran riot.
But while the main act dazzled the fans centre stage, off in the wings, unnoticed, the seeds of three future Ashes story were being sown.
At 22 years of age, Peter Siddle was emerging as a promising prospect for the Victorian side, and jumped at the chance to assist the 12th man during the Boxing Day, another talented young fast bowler by the name of Mitchell Johnson.
The third would be Shane Watson, who, after being ruled out of the remainder of the series with hamstring issues, had to watch on among the 90,000 strong crowd.
All three players share a different story and each is special in their own way.
Peter Siddle has become Australia’s most reliable and consistent bowler over the last 24 months and has also become the heart and soul of the Australian cricket team.
Siddle will play his 50th Test come Thursday and fittingly it’ll be at the same ground where seven years ago he watched his cricketing heroes ruin England.
The Balmy Army chant of “he bowls to the left, he bowls to the right, it’s Mitchell Johnson, he bowls like shite” is all but ancient history now.
Not only has Mitchell Johnson come back fully rejuvenated but he has destroyed the English batting line-up into all sorts and has been arguably the main reason Australia have regained the Ashes.
From inconsistent performances, to ‘homeworkgate’, to relationship issues with Michael Clarke, Shane Watson has probably received the most criticism out of any current Australian player over the last 12 months.
Seven years ago, Shane Watson’s career was at the crossroads as he once again was forced out of the Australian side due to injury. And that has pretty much been the story of Shane Watson’s career.
Over the last 12 months, it has been Watson’s position in the batting line-up, dedication to the team, his front foot and relationship with Michael Clarke that has been talked about.
However, his brutal hundred, which included 74 off 41 on the fourth morning of the third Test, was a timely reminder of the shear batting talent he posesses and his wickets of Joe Root and Michael Carberry showed just how valuable he is as Australia’s fourth seamer.
It has taken almost nine years, but Watson will play his 50th Test match on Thursday, sharing that special moment with Peter Siddle.
It’s the first time since 2006/07 that Australia have come into the fourth Test of an Ashes series knowing the Ashes have been won.
England, largely through the admirable resistance of Ben Stokes, made the Australian bowlers toil hard in the WACA heat for victory and it wasn’t until the all-rounder was dismissed that Siddle felt the game was really there for the taking:
“Obviously the last wicket was the best moment but I think just those last few wickets – it was a hard time that last day getting the first few early wickets, but when it was the ninth and tenth wickets, I think those two were the times when the emotions started to build up a little bit.
“I started to realise what was about to happen, and it was just an amazing time just to go over and hug Hadds [Brad Haddin] and Watto [Watson], two blokes that I’ve played alongside for a long time now and to finally taste success – it was quite emotional out in the middle.”
While the emotions overflowed in Perth, the Australians are refocusing, with the aim of making it four-nil at the MCG.
“I would [like to bowl the first ball], it’d be a good feeling,” said Siddle.
“This is my sixth Boxing Day (Test) coming up, I’m very excited about that.
“Touch wood I’ll play. It’s going to be pretty exciting.
“It’s just a great Test match. It doesn’t matter what state you come from, you can ask the New South Welshmen or the boys from WA, Boxing Day’s always been a very big Test match to play.
“I’m looking forward to it. Hopefully it’s a record crowd and them singing ‘He’s a Victorian’ and all those type of things.
“It does spur you on and it’s fun being out in the middle and having a crack.”