India will begin its tour of South Africa with the first of the three Test matches at the SuperSport Park in Centurion from Sunday. The Test match, apart from the third Ashes Test between Australia and England at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG), are being referred to as a Boxing Day Test as both matches will be played a day after Christmas, on December 26.
Sporting matches on Boxing Day, that is December 26, is a traditional practice across countries like Australia, Canada, England (from where it originated), New Zealand and South Africa. In terms of cricket, Test matches are scheduled in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa on this day.
As per a version in the folklore, it refers to the alms boxes or poor boxes in churches that used to be opened the day after Christmas. Another version of the same folklore believes that the name finds its origin from the boxes of gifts which were given to servants who had to work on the occasion of Christmas. They were given presents the following day and were given a day off to spend time with their families.
The Boxing Day tradition in cricket began in Australia when domestic sides Victoria and New South Wales (NSW) met in a thrilling Sheffield Shield match at the MCG from December 26, 1856. The match itself became a timeless match, but resulted in the visitors, in this case, NSW, winning by three wickets. It slowly grew into a tradition, and in 1865, it turned into an annual fixture between the two states.
The first Boxing Day Test match took place between Australia and England in 1950 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG). It was not until 1980 that the Melbourne Cricket Club (MCC) and the Australian cricket team bagged the rights to organise a Test match every year on Boxing Day at the MCG.
In terms of India's record in the Boxing Day Tests, India will have to break its modest record. The Virat Kohli-led side has won just three Boxing Day Tests, including the last two Boxing Day Tests in Australia while drawing two and suffering defeats in 10 matches since its first Boxing Day Test appearance in 1985.
In terms of India facing South Africa, the Proteas have dominated India with four wins, starting from 1992, which was won by the hosts by nine wickets at Port Elizabeth, thanks to Allan Donald's 12 wickets.
The only time South Africa lost a Boxing Day Test while facing India was by 87 runs at Kingsmead in Durban in 2010, which is also one of only three wins for India in the Rainbow Nation. The last Boxing Day Test between India and South Africa happened in 2013 when South Africa won by 10 wickets at Durban.