Australia v India 2007-08 /

The MCG's hundredth Test

A superb but controversial century

There will be no streamers or candles at the MCG on Boxing Day, but it is another grand occasion for the ground as it hosts its 100th Test

Peter English

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Grand ground: Only Lord's has staged more Tests than the MCG © Getty Images

There will be no streamers or candles at the MCG on Boxing Day, but it is another grand occasion for the ground as it hosts its 100th Test. However, the party was last year due to one of those quirks that cricket followers love and loathe to argue about. When does a game actually begin?

The start of the trivial matter occurred when the third Ashes Test of 1970-71 never did. Rain flooded the first two days and after it continued into the third a committee including Don Bradman and Gubby Allen abandoned the match, rescheduling it as the fifth Test. Of much greater consequence was the decision to stage a 40-over contest that would become the first one-day international, but for pedantic statisticians and websites with infinite space it is not the issue this week.

If the toss had not happened - England's Ray Illingworth won it on December 31, the first day, and chose to field - there would be no debate and the ground would not have shivered through a season of Australian rules football wondering whether it had really reached three figures last December. Cricket Australia and the Melbourne Cricket Club (MCC), the guardian of the MCG, count the flip of the coin as the start of a match and include it in their records as a draw. The ICC and Wisden insist on a ball being bowled and class it as "match abandoned".

Cricinfo's view is: "Whilst the Australian Board of Control recognised this match as an official Test to be included in match statistics, nearly all statisticians around the world do not do so." There was nothing to add except a periodic argument over the number of games at the ground.

All this will be a surprise to the Australia and England players and officials who were part of the fourth Test last year. They received medals, which had been commissioned by the MCC, Cricket Australia and Cricket Victoria, before the start of play to mark the ground's century. Nothing will be handed out on Wednesday.

What isn't in doubt is that the MCG is the most-used Test ground in Australia

What isn't in doubt is that the MCG is the most-used Test ground in Australia. It is second overall to Lord's - its record of 114 games is not in question - while Sydney is third on 95, with a similar dispute sure to occur for its milestone in a few years thanks to the ICC's ruling over the World XI Test.

The first game at the MCG was played in 1877, which Australia won by 45 runs, the same margin that decided the Centenary Test. A world record crowd of 90,800 attended the opening day of the 1960-61 game against West Indies in that gripping contest and other magic moments at the stadium include Kim Hughes' magical century in 1981-82, Bradman's series turning 270 in 1936-37, and Shane Warne's 700th wicket 12 months ago.

Neville Cardus called the June 1964 Australia-England contest at Lord's "The Test That Never Was" after the opening two days were washed out. "The Test match that never began, never became a Test match, and was never finished!" Cardus was prone to exaggeration and would have been more accurate if he had waited another six years to use the sentence. Unfortunately it still wouldn't have ended the argument.

Peter English is the Australasian editor of Cricinfo

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