Full house expected but swing may be hard to find

All the talk is of a Test record crowd of 100,000 at the MCG on Boxing Day. This probably ignores Eden Gardens, Calcutta, where they have hung off the rafters in the past and audiences have been assessed at approaching 120,000.

But there is a difference between official and unofficial estimates and MCG, still a concrete basin, is swish now, done up to the nines for the Commonwealth Games a few years back. The tautness of the series, the prospect of good weather, the occasion, has convinced the ground authorities that they can match an AFL Finals Day capacity.

It is a uniform bowl these days, the notorious Bay 13 where all the gaudy larrikins once gathered to put the fear of God into the oppo vanished. Their successors, however, know its rough location and England can expect to be given some welcome (hostile, that is).

The tourists' record at the MCG is their second best in Australia, next to Sydney. They have won 19 and lost 27 of the 53 matches there. Perhaps it is slightly to their advantage that the final two Tests are being played at the grounds.

For all the shrill reporting about the likelihood of doctored pitches post-Perth, the prosaic truth, always difficult to grasp for some misguided fools, is that the MCG is all but beyond the practice. MCG curator Cameron Hodgkins said that because he was fairly cautious he always gave himself a couple of options.

"MCG has never been fast and bouncy," he said. "It is more a wicket that offers a little bit up front and is quite flat towards the end of the match. Towards the end of the tour match it became pretty obvious that my first option wouldn't be ideal for a Test match and I was able to go to what I thought would be a better surface.

"I haven't spoken to anyone from Cricket Australia since the middle of the winter. It was an entirely personal thing and it was something I did two weeks ago, so it wasn't a spur of the moment move because of anything that happened in the last week. On the Waca's worst day it would still be faster and bouncier than anything that we normally turn out."

The last three England victories have been significant now that the Test is later in the Ashes calendar. Twelve years ago, they won by 12 runs when Dean Headley had his best Test figures of 6 for 44. In 1982-83, the margin was three runs when the present chairman of selectors, Geoff Miller, took a rebound catch at slip to end a 10th-wicket partnership of 80.

But the most significant was in 1986-87 when England won the Boxing Day match by an innings after Chris Broad's third hundred of the series. With it came the Ashes.

They can do so again here and perhaps the most significant of Hodgkins' comments bearing in mind the Mitchell Johnson factor was: "We haven't been getting a lot of swing here."

News
Clare Balding
peopleClare Balding on how women's football is shaking up sport
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
Sport
premier leagueMatch report: Arsenal 1 Man United 2
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
A comedy show alumni who has gone on to be a big star, Jon Stewart
tvRival television sketch shows vie for influential alumni
Arts and Entertainment
Kirk Cameron is begging his Facebook fans to give him positive reviews
film
Life and Style
Small winemakers say the restriction makes it hard to sell overseas
food + drink
News
i100
Life and Style
fashionThe Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Sport
Tony Bellew (left) and Nathan Cleverly clash at the Echo Arena in Liverpool
boxingLate surge sees Liverpudlian move into world title contention
Voices
Neil Findlay
voicesThe vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Life and Style
food + drinkMeat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible
Look what's mushrooming now! Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector

Look what's mushrooming now!

Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

More a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

The vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Tenderstem broccoli omelette; Fried eggs with Mexican-style tomato and chilli sauce; Pan-fried cavolo nero with soft-boiled egg

Oeuf quake

Bill Granger's cracking egg recipes
Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

Terry Venables column

Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin