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The Ashes at the MCG: 11 memorable Australian performances

Dennis Lillee is one of Australia’s greatest ever cricketers. (Photo by S&G/PA Images via Getty Images)
Roar Guru
21st December, 2021

Australia’s Colosseum has hosted many wonderful games against England. Each player listed below has earned his place in this composite Australian team, with an outstanding performance at the ground during the past 145 years.

1. Charles Bannerman, 1876-77
While the Ashes were not at stake in what was subsequently deemed the inaugural Test match, this performance demands acknowledgement.

No other Australian has played a larger innings on debut, and no other player in Test history has scored a higher proportion of his team’s runs in one innings. It is remarkable that such records have endured for almost 150 years.

The combined New South Wales and Victoria XI ended the match’s first day on 6-166, with Bannerman undefeated on 126. On the following day he retired hurt after being struck on the finger when his own score was 165, including 18 boundaries. The side was dismissed soon after for 245.

Bannerman’s proportion of 67.3 per cent of his team’s total is unsurpassed. Only four teammates reached double figures, and the next highest individual score was 18. Bannerman faced approximately 330 deliveries, while his colleagues collectively scored 72 runs from around 347 balls.

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James Lillywhite’s XI replied with 196, to concede a 49-run lead. While the home side totalled just 104 in their second innings, they were able to then dismiss the visitors for 108 and so claim a 45-run victory.


The match’s conditions would be unrecognisable today. The pitch was unprotected from rain, and if wet would still be played on. Befitting the era’s low scoring, the follow-on was compulsory for any team 80 runs behind.

Each day’s play lasted less than four hours. Afternoon tea intervals were not scheduled. Only one new ball was available per innings. An over comprised four deliveries.

Over rates ranged between 120 and 135 deliveries per hour. Just five runs were awarded for a six, after which the batsmen changed ends.

2. Victor Trumper, 1903-04
The much-adored batsman played one of the finest wet-pitch innings, and one of the greatest ones in a lost cause, in Test history.

After England had reached 2-277, rain made batting almost impossible. Their last seven wickets duly added just 38 more runs.

Trumper opened the home side’s innings and attacked as wickets fell around him. He was seeking to get the team past their follow-on figure of 116 runs, and force England to bat again before the pitch dried.

(Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)


He was last man dismissed for 74 runs from 80 deliveries in a team total of just 122. His ten partners collectively scored 47 with only one boundary. When England then batted again they reached just 103.

On such a pitch Australia’s 297-run victory target was unreachable. They were dismissed for 111 to lose by 185 runs. Trumper’s share was 35 from 33 deliveries. Eight of his teammates did not reach double figures. Four of them scored ducks.

Trumper scored 61 per cent of his side’s first-innings runs, and 47 per cent of them in total. While the game’s last 36 wickets fell for 374 runs on an unplayable pitch, his share was 109 runs at a rate of 96 per hundred balls.

His teammates’ 20 innings produced just 124 runs in total. The next best contributor was captain Monty Noble with 31 runs.

3. Don Bradman (captain), 1936-37
The Cootamundra-born champion played one of Test cricket’s most famous innings. No Australian has made a higher score in a win in Melbourne.

While the odd Roarer will claim that the innings’ second half was devoid of meaning, the facts and context indicate otherwise.

New captain Bradman declared his team’s first innings at 9-200 after wet weather had made conditions bowler-friendly. England replied with 9(dec)76. After a rest day, the pitch gradually improved.


Bradman reversed his side’s batting order, batted at number seven and commenced his own innings at 5-97. He and Jack Fingleton then shared a 346-run sixth-wicket partnership.

Bradman continued on to a final score of 270. While he faced just 375 deliveries, he scored a mere 22 boundaries.

Being a timeless Test there would be no honourable draw for England. They chased 689 for victory, and scored a creditable 323.

Australia's best-ever Don Bradman

(PA Images via Getty Images)

4. Clem Hill, 1897-98
The gifted left-hander played the finest innings of his career, at just 20 years of age. Only Bradman has recorded a higher score in a victory over England in Melbourne.

The home side had been reduced to 5-32 and then 6-58. Hill was batting at number three, and could only watch on helplessly. He then found a capable partner in Hugh Trumble, and they resurrected their side’s hopes with a 165-run stand.

Hill’s innings realised 188 runs in 305 minutes, including 21 boundaries. Australia was able to total 323 as a result.


The visitors replied with just 174, and then 263 after following on. Australia successfully overhauled their 115-run victory target with eight wickets to spare.

The Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack wrote the following:

“While able to drive hard to the off or straight, usually with the ball kept down, Clem Hill scored chiefly on the leg side by skilful strokes perfectly timed and placed, the way in which he turned straight balls clear of fieldsmen being exceptional. Brilliant square and late cutting made Hill delightful to watch and in defence his style claimed admiration while his patience was unlimited.”

5. Bob Cowper, 1965-66
It was the final game of the series, which was evenly-poised at one win apiece. No player has recorded a higher score, or registered more runs in total, in a Test match in Melbourne.

England batted first and amassed 9(dec)485. In reply, the home side slumped to 2-48. Cowper then joined Bill Lawry, his captain and fellow Victorian left-hander.

After Lawry’s removal following a 212-run stand, Cowper carried on relentlessly. He was eventually dismissed for 307, from 589 deliveries.

His innings included just 20 fours, of the 35 that Australia scored in total. It also included 26 threes, which is a likely record. Those figures reflect the challenges that batsmen faced prior to the modern era’s power bats, roped boundaries and faster outfields.


Unfortunately the match’s fourth day was washed out, consigning the result to a draw. Australia subsequently declared at 8-543, after which the visitors’ ended their second innings at 3-69.

6. Monty Noble, 1901-02
The future great all-rounder and captain recorded the best match figures by an Australian in Melbourne. They were achieved in conditions so suitable for bowling for the majority of the game, that the home side reversed their batting order in their second innings.

On the match’s first day, an incredible 25 wickets fell for 221 runs. While Australia scored just 112, they then dismissed the visitors for 61. Noble claimed 7-17 from 7.4 overs with his combination of medium-paced swerve and off spin. By stumps, the home side’s second-innings score was already 5-48.

Australia’s recognised batsmen had been held back and prospered as the pitch improved, to enable a final score of 353. England was set 405 runs for victory, and tallied just 175. Noble’s share was 6-60, for a match aggregate of 13-77.

Generic Ashes urn

(Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

7. Ian Healy, 1994-95
No wicketkeeper has claimed more dismissals in an Ashes match in Melbourne. Unusually the game commenced on Christmas Eve, and Boxing Day was the match’s second day.


Australia recorded a relatively modest 279, with Healy’s share 17 runs. They then restricted the visitors to just 212 in reply. His contribution was two catches from Craig McDermott’s bowling, and a stumping from Shane Warne.

The home side scored 7(dec)320 in their second innings, with Healy scoring a further 17. England were set 388 for victory, and collapsed to be dismissed for just 92.

This time he claimed five catches, for a match return of seven catches and one stumping. Five of those seven catches were effected from McDermott’s bowling.

8. Dennis Lillee, 1976-77
This performance did not contribute to an Ashes victory, just like Bannerman’s one 100 years previously. However the Centenary Test’s significance is reason enough to include the match-winning feat by Australia’s greatest ever paceman.

The game began dramatically with the home side’s dismissal for just 138. They then struck back superbly.

England commenced the second day’s play with their score 1-29, but could reach just 95 in total. Lillee claimed 6-26 and his victims included Bob Woolmer, Mike Brearley, Derek Randall and Alan Knott. Wicketkeeper Rod Marsh assisted by taking three catches.

Australia fared better in their second innings to declare at 9-419, and set England a 463-run victory target. Another outstanding display by Lillee ensured that the visitors would fall short.


He bowled 34.4 eight-ball overs for a return of 5-139. Brearley and Knott were again victims, while the others included Keith Fletcher.

Australia’s winning margin was 45 runs, an identical one to that for the inaugural Test match. Lillee took the match’s final wicket, and was chaired from the field by his teammates.

Despite his overall figures of 11-165, the man of the match award instead went to Derek Randall.

Dennis Lillee

(Photo by S&G/PA Images via Getty Images)

9. Bill O’Reilly, 1932-33
The fiery leg spinner’s performance in a low-scoring game was one of Australia’s few bright moments in a controversial series. O’Reilly was ultimately overshadowed by opposing skipper Douglas Jardine’s successful Bodyline tactics.

Australia batted first and recorded just 228. Jack Fingleton contributed 83 defiant runs. Don Bradman registered a golden duck in his first innings of the series.

O’Reilly then opened the bowling for Australia, as they had selected a three-man spin attack. He took 5-63 from 34.3 overs, and clean-bowled three batsmen including the top order’s Maurice Leyland and the Nawab of Pataudi. The visitors were restricted to 169 all out.


When the home side batted a second time, they again struggled. Bradman’s undefeated century enabled them reach 191, and set England a 251-run victory target.

O’Reilly again took the new ball and rose to the challenge. His victims this time included four top-order batsmen in Herbert Sutcliffe, Wally Hammond, Bob Wyatt and Les Ames.

England could score just 139. His figures were 5-66 from 24 overs, for a match haul of 10-129.

10. Rodney Hogg, 1978-79
Hogg was a one-man wrecking ball for an undermanned Australian team. Following two losses, this performance inspired their only win of the series.

The home side reached 258 thanks to Graeme Wood’s dogged century. Hogg’s duck was one of four, as his team collapsed from a promising 4-247.

England’s reply began badly. Hogg removed Geoff Boycott and captain Mike Brearley for one run apiece, and later clean-bowled Geoff Miller, Bob Taylor and John Emburey. The visitors could tally just 143. Hogg’s figures were 5-30 from 17 overs.

Australia continue to struggle to maintain dominance in the game. From 3-136 in their second innings, they reached just 167.


When England chased 283 for victory, Hogg was again the destroyer. This time his victims were specialist batsmen Derek Randall and Graham Gooch, and each of the last three wickets to fall.

His 5-36 from 17 overs restricted the visitors to 179 all out. His match haul was an impressive 10-66.

Baggy green

(Photo by Daniel Pockett – CA/Cricket Australia via Getty Images )

11. Bruce Reid, 1990-91
No Australian has taken more wickets in a match in Melbourne than the awkward and fragile left-armed West Australian.

England began the match promisingly by reaching 4-274, and eventually amassed 352 all out. Reid’s contribution was 6-97 from 39 overs, including the wickets of four of the visitors’ top six batsmen. The home side fought hard to total 306 in reply.

When England batted again with a handy 46-run lead, Reid was again his side’s most successful bowler. He removed five of the visitors’ six top-order batsmen to trigger a collapse from 1-103 to 150 all out. His figures were 7-51 from 22 overs.

Australia easily overhauled their 197-run target for the loss of just two wickets. Reid claimed the man of the match award for overall figures of 13-148. Perhaps surprisingly he also scored three runs without being dismissed, and took a return catch.