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Opinion

My takeaways from the three Boxing Day Tests

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1st January, 2021
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Boxing Day is considered a festival for cricket fans as Australia, New Zealand and South Africa play their home Test after Christmas.

This Boxing Day also featured three Tests comprising six teams. Australia faced India, New Zealand faced Pakistan and South Africa fought with Sri Lanka.

The fans were excited to see some non-stop competitive cricket on Boxing Day but the only match that went to the fifth day was Pakistan versus New Zealand. This was a competitive match but Sri Lanka and Australia were single-handedly crushed by the opponents. Here are my one-by-one takeaways from the Boxing Day Tests.

Australia versus India
Starting with Australia versus India, this was the most hyped match of Boxing Day but the end was a little bizarre. The hosts decided to bat after winning the toss but couldn’t capitalise on the advantage and didn’t put up a big show.

Except for Marnus Labuschagne, no one had answers to the tough questions of the young Indian bowlers. Australia’s dependency on the top order and Steve Smith was fully exposed, which they need to fix in the upcoming matches.

In response, debutant Shubman Gill and the captain Ajinkya Rahane were the standouts as they led their team to complete the trail. Jadeja joined the skipper Rahane, who was playing the captain’s knock there, and increased the lead by scoring a century.

Ajinkya Rahane

Ajinkya Rahane. (Photo by William West/AFP via Getty Images)

The lead of 131 already put Australia under pressure and they were just able to score 69 runs more after the lead, which was never enough. India chased down the target with eight wickets in hand and Rahane became the second Indian after Rahul Dravid to score a winning run in Australia.

India totally dominated the Test match whereas Australia was completely lacking the temperament. They needed to build some small partnerships and one big innings from the other end to accelerate the scoreboard, which Rahane did on the other side. Basically, the key difference between both teams was Rahane’s innings. He got accompanied by Gill and then Jadeja to lead his team to a big total.

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This win will be remembered for ages as coming back from disaster 36 all out and missing some key players made this win more memorable. It looks like a whole different side from the last match and it’s commendable to keep their morale high after a disastrous defeat. The only positive from the Australian camp was Cameron Green, who played a brilliant second innings under pressure and we can expect this sort of comeback from the Australian side too.

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New Zealand versus Pakistan
The first match to start on Boxing Day was New Zealand versus Pakistan where the Kiwis continued their home dominance and Pakistan faced another defeat in the World Test Championship. This Test match showed why the Test format is considered to be the best and why big players come from this format.

After winning the toss Pakistan put the hosts in to bat on a greenish wicket. Shaheen Afridi provided some early breakthroughs. Then came Kane Williamson’s brilliance followed by three fifties. New Zealand put up a mammoth total of 431 and the visitors were six down for 80 in response but then stand-in captain Mohammad Rizwan and Faheem Ashraf rescued their team. Both scored fifties and saved the team from the follow-on.

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After getting the lead of 192, NZ just wanted to seal the match by setting a high target but declared on 180 to have enough time to bowl out the opposition. All three results were possible with four sessions left in the match and Pakistan went two down at the end of Day 4. Pakistan had to face the whole Day 5 to win or draw the Test, which was never on the bet.

Day 5 started with the wicket of Azhar Ali but then came the partnership between Pakistan’s domestic Bradman Fawad Alam and the captain Rizwan. They returned Pakistan back into the match. After tea, Kyle Jamieson came up with the breakthrough of Rizwan then Neil Wagner picked up Fawad. After that wickets began to fall and New Zealand won the match by 101 runs.

Neil Wagner

Neil Wagner. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

As the Test match was won by New Zealand but this will be remembered as a match for Pakistan’s resistance and brilliance where they almost succeeded to draw the Test match but lost by a small margin. This Test match will be remembered by Fawad Alam as after 11 years he scored an international ton, which showed his resistance, grit, patience and hard work to play and contribute for the team. This will be a day remembered for him.

South Africa versus Sri Lanka
The last match on Boxing Day was South Africa against Sri Lanka where the visitors faced a shameful defeat by an innings. Sri Lanka was coming directly from the LPL and didn’t get a chance to practice, which resulted in injuries to many players. Three players of Sri Lanka left the ground during the match and one or two more were facing some cramps.

After opting to bat first, Sri Lanka started on a high note and scored 396 on the board with four fifties. In response, the South African batsmen ground the Sri Lankan bowlers, forcing them to use seven bowlers. They scored a mammoth total of 621. Faf du Plessis remained unlucky as he missed his double century by one run.

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This sore of 600-plus was enough for the hosts to not bat again and they bundled out the visitors on 180 and sealed the match by an innings and 45 runs. Lutho Sipamla was good with the ball on debut.

The key points for South Africa from this match was the discipline with which they played throughout the match and every player contributed in the match. Faf du Plessis was good with the bat and got good company.

They have ticked all boxes in the batting and the young bowling attack was just phenomenal. The bowling attack did the best job and took all wickets twice to seal the match. Quinton de Kock started his captaincy regime with an emphatic win and this win will certainly boost his confidence going into the next match and future series.

Sri Lanka’s main concern was the injuries that led them to play with eight players in the second innings. Dhananjaya de Silva left the ground during batting and didn’t come on the ground again and their two bowlers also left the field during bowling. South Africa will face a little, weak Sri Lankan side in the next match.