Looking Back: Cricket at Christmas

Posted: 14 December 2018

As Christmas is just around the corner MCC Archivist Rob Curphey looks back at some interesting cricketing Christmas connections.

Cricket at Christmas

England did win a Test match once on Christmas Day, in 1972 against India, where on the fifth day of the match in Delhi, captain Tony Lewis - MCC President from 1998-2000 - and Tony Greig saw England to victory against the hosts by 6 wickets, with scores of 70 not out and 40 not out respectively.

The victory at Delhi was the first Test of a five-match series between the two countries, which India won 2-1. Test cricket was played for the first time on Christmas Day in 1951 in Adelaide, on the third day of a Test match between Australia and West Indies.

The visitors won by 6 wickets, finishing the match on Christmas Day. In total, there have been four Tests played during Christmas Day, the others being between Australia and India at Adelaide in 1967 and between the same two nations at Madras in 1969.

Below is the scorebook entry from the India vs. England match which is to date the last time a Test match was played at Christmas:
Meanwhile in 1926, the MCC team that toured India celebrated Christmas by playing cricket matches; on Christmas Eve (against the brilliantly-titled British in Bengal), Boxing Day (against Europeans in the East, which included players who had also turned out for British in Bengal) and then a four-day match against India which began on New Year’s Eve 1926 and ended in a 4 wicket win for the touring team.

That tour was significant as it was the first time MCC toured India and although there were no Test matches, MCC played several first-class teams during their six-month tour which also included four matches in Sri Lanka before their return to Britain.  Despite the amount of travelling that took place which Gilligan found quite unnecessary, the tour proved very successful; the team were unbeaten out of 34 matches played in India or Sri Lanka.

In Gilligan’s report to the MCC Committee, he commented that the MCC visit had ‘done very much good to improve the cricket in India, and also to improve the relations between the Indians and ourselves’, also proposing, successfully, that India be given Test status. 

Alistair Christmas

Christmas literally came to Lord’s twice in consecutive days in July 1996, as Alistair Christmas played at the Home of Cricket twice for the National Association of Young Cricketers, firstly against an MCC Schools team which included Graeme Swann, and Combined Services a day later. In the match against MCC Schools, Christmas took 1 wicket in a match that ended in a draw.

A day later, Christmas would again pass through the Long Room and walk out to represent the National Association of Young Cricketers, this time against the Combined Services. He also took 1 wicket in the match and made 24 with the bat, but was unable to prevent the Combined Services winning by six wickets. Christmas also represented Leicestershire Second XI for three seasons between 1994-1996, and will turn 32 on Christmas Day! 

Alistair was not the only ‘Christmas’ to appear at Lord’s that decade; David Christmas represented Lincolnshire twice in the MCC Trophy Final. Unfortunately for Christmas, Lincolnshire lost both finals; in 1990 to Buckinghamshire (where he scored 29) and 1994 to a Devon side containing Peter Roebuck (where scored 23 and took 1 wicket). Also in 1913, a Harry Christmas played at Lord’s for Cambridgeshire against an MCC team that included future Treasurer and President H S Altham, and he took 2 wickets in MCC’s first innings but was unable to prevent the hosts winning by 10 wickets.

The Surrey cricketer and later groundsman at The Oval Herbert Lock had the middle name Christmas; he played for Surrey for 7 years, also touring Jamaica with L H Tennyson’s XI in 1926-1927.

Christmas Cards

Finally, the MCC Archive collection contains many Christmas cards, both an archive of cards sold by the Club and issued to members in the past, but also past cards issued on behalf of MCC touring teams. Below are examples of a couple of Christmas cards from our collection, both from MCC tours to South Africa in 1930-1931 and 1964-1965:The 1930-1931 card was sent to the philanthropist Julien Cahn by Maurice Allom and contains a photograph of Allom alongside the rest of the MCC team, described as a ‘Happy Family’, in Cape Town, who lost the five match Test series to South Africa 1-0 under Percy Chapman’s captaincy.

The 1964-1965 card was sent by D B Carr on behalf of himself, the captain M J K Smith, and the rest of the MCC team who defeated South Africa 1-0 in a five match Test series. MCC holds many other Christmas cards from past touring teams, including cards sent on behalf of teams which toured Australia and India, which MCC Members and members of the public (by appointment) are welcome to come and view in the MCC Library.

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