THE PUNTING MONOLOGUE "AUSTRALIAN GUINEAS SPECIAL LISTEN

Merry Boxing Day Eve

Boland, Hazelwood. Hazelwood, Boland.

Finkle, Einhorn. Einhorn, Finkle.

Australian cricket fans and media alike have spent the past week in pubs, offices and barbeques aimlessly debating the merits of selecting either Scott Boland or Josh Hazelwood.

Surely the most welcome of headaches for George Bailey & Co.

Both seamers harbour the beautiful simplicity of a sunrise.

Consistent, daily. Each so full of promise.

And for the visitors, the dawning realisation that their opposition can continue to hoist skilful wicket-takers from a seemingly bottomless well of talent.

In this humble scribe’s admittedly impotent opinion, the murky hubbub surrounding selection has been grossly unfounded.

Whether to play an in-form “MCG specialist” with a Test average a tick over ten (10.36) at the ground he last year became an instant cult hero, or a bowler returning from a significant side strain?

This is an absolute no brainer.

Give the man what he deserves and has earned.

Give his adorning – paying – public what they want.

Sanity (& financial prosperity) prevails.

Boland plays.

See you in Sydney, Josh.

When it comes to the Mount Rushmore of Australian sporting events, the Boxing Day Test prominently juts its immovable, granite scone from the calendar’s rockface.**

It is, quite simply, the pinnacle.

Last year it was Boland’s insane spell of six for seven (6 fa 7!).

In 1982 it was AB & Thommo nearly chasing down the impossible – hey did you guys know Swampy and the lads were downstairs on the cans?! Shame they never mention it. . . . Cheers.

Andrew Symonds’ maiden ton where a justifiably enthused Roy celebrated by hugging fellow bulky Queenslander, Matthew Hayden, in the type of clutching embrace that could have pressurized coal into diamonds.

Recently, a bromidic piece of “banter” saw 80,000+ inanely growl “Niiiiiice Gaaarrrrry!”. Initially aimed at eliciting chuckles, to everyone’s slack jawed astonishment and joy, the jejune galvanising war cry immediately garnered success, via a Nathan Lyon wicket. Instantly iconic.

There was Sehwag’s blistering 195, Langer & Punter’s imperious 250’s.

Perhaps let us not speak of Cook’s 244* or the poms’ Ashes winning sprinkler manoeuvre – suffice to say, that water-spurting celebration was apt for such a grand pack of drips.

Between unwrapping unwanted socks ‘n’ jocks, the tourists will do well to put the Billtong down and instead elect to frequently YouTube the unfazed heroics of Dale Steyn and JP Duminy at this famous venue, on their last trip to Aussie shores. Certainly, their fast bowlers will be eager to run in and kiss the deck beneath invisible mistletoe hovering at a good length.

The year’s form bowler, Kagiso Rabada looms large, in the box seat to be crowned leading Test wicket-taker for 2022.

He currently sits one behind Jack Leach (yup, you heard right…) on forty-five (45), with Niiiiice Gaaaarrry! lurking in the shadows on forty-three (43).

Rabada’s duel with a scratchy but bullish David Warner is nothing short of salivating.

The latter straps on the pads in his 100th Test match and is looking to, yet again, prove the doubters & haters wrong.

The last of his twenty-four (24) Test tons came nigh on three (3) years ago and the opener has been woefully out of sorts in recent digs.

But who amongst those to witness his longstanding tenacity would write Warner off when it comes to adding another bat raise to his two (2) Boxing Day centuries (one of which came after being caught on 99 ….from a Stuart Broad no ball)?

Not I.

Will David Warner retire after the Sydney Test and leave on his own terms, one of Australia’s greatest ever openers….?

Probably not.

But we’ll leave that discussion to those who know best – i.e, anyone at a pub, office or barbeque this summer.

As big as the Boxing Day Test was, and is, one man miraculously managed to usurp its gravitas and make it entirely about him. In the greatest possible way.

This year, in absentia, things will be no different. A worthy homage will be paid to the 350th Test player for his nation. The focus remains.

Even for the most ardent of atheists, Shane Keith Warne will surely be at the fabled ground in spirit & recollection.

From his 1994 hat-trick, to his 700th Test victim in Strauss, this giant of a cricketer somehow morphed the nation’s most immense sporting colosseum into his own backyard, replete with eleven play-things to routinely toy with, post-Christmas.

The players will line up at the anthems beneath the Shane Warne Stand, donning SK’s preferred floppy white hats, in his honour.

Rumour has it, several will attempt all-night sex romps and benders of their own choosing, in the hopes of emulating The King’s unparalleled Boxing Day success.

I know I will be (….sadly, the latter, my only realistic option).

Steeped in tradition, there is nothing quite like the atmosphere that envelopes an MCG cauldron come the opening delivery of a Boxing Day Test.

Will it be the Bull of old, in David Warner, winding back the clock to the scene of his starburst 89 on Australian debut, violently slapping the same opponents from that steamy January evening to all corners; or will it be humble cult hero Scotty Boland surprising absolutely no one by taking multiple wickets in an over as he continually harasses the top of off all day?

Either way, I will be there, and most will be watching or listening as the country emerges from its festive slumber and gets primed for a fiercely competitive battle on the best sporting day of the year.

Dec 25th is Boxing Day Eve.

Go to bed early, children, for tomorrow is the real Christmas.

**On the Aussie sporting calendar Mt Rushmore, the Boxing Day Test is flanked by the Melbourne Cup, AFL & NRL Grand Finals. Although, this – unlike Boland v Hazelwood – is an ongoing debate best left to the imbibed patrons of pubs, offices, and barbies, nationwide….

Punt on the Boxing Day Test

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