The biggest sporting event in the world over the Christmas weekend will be the fourth Ashes Test match between Australia and England at the Melbourne Cricket Ground with a record 91,000 turning up for the opening session on Boxing Day.
The MCG is the biggest sporting arena in Australia and has been staging cricket matches since 1854. In later years it became the home to Aussie Rules, staged the 1956 Olympic Games, the 2006 Commonwealth Games, State of Origin Rugby League matches and two Tri-Nations Tests between the Wallabies and All Blacks.
But the world renowned venue also has links to the British & Irish Lions, both in a rugby and cricket context. When the pioneering Lions toured New Zealand and Australia in 1888 they played one of their 19 games under the then ‘Victorian Rules’ (nowadays Aussie Rules) at the MCG against the top team of the age, Carlton.
There was a crowd of 25,000 at the ground to see what turned out to be a bit of a miss match as the home champions ran out winners by 14.17 (101) to 2.7 (19). The star of the show for the Lions was Andrew Stoddart, who returned to the MCG four more times with the England cricket team during the Ashes series in 1891/92, 1894/5 (twice) and 1897/98
The man who took over the captaincy of the 1888 Lions following the tragic death of tour skipper Robert Seddon, who drowned in a sculling accident on the River Maitland, led England to a thrilling 3-2 Ashes victory in 1894/95 and notched his highest Test score of 173 at the MCG.
His second innings century not only set-up a victory by 94 runs, and put England on course for their fifth Ashes triumph ‘Down Under’, but was also only the sixth Test hundred scored on the ground and the biggest of them all.
In 1899, the Lions got to play the big arena when they beat a Victoria side 30-0, while they also played at the famous cricket ground in 1930, when they won 41-36 against Victoria once again.