This year's Boxing Day Test marks 10 years since Steve Smith's first – and the Australia batsman has made the occasion his own.
Smith and Australia will go into the Test starting Saturday with a 1-0 series lead over a hurting India, who were embarrassingly dismissed for their lowest ever score – 36 – in the second innings in Adelaide.
Australia won by eight wickets, but Smith made just two runs – he faced one ball in the second innings – in the series opener. With Virat Kohli returning home for the birth of his first child, the stage is set for Australia to take a 2-0 lead in Melbourne – and it is an occasion Smith has revelled in.
The New South Welshman played his first Boxing Day Test 10 years ago in what was an Ashes catastrophe for Australia. Smith made scores of six and 38 in that match, and just 19 against England three years later, but he has enjoyed the MCG since then.
He averages 113.5 in Tests in Melbourne – comfortably his best at any ground at which he has played at least five matches – including four centuries and three fifties. Smith is 92 runs away from becoming the eighth Australian to make 1,000 Test runs at the MCG, and of those currently on that list, only Don Bradman (128.53) has a better average.
"I think my Boxing Day record is probably my best in Australia of all the grounds. I like batting at the MCG, those sorts of big occasions," Smith said ahead of the Test.
"I like to try and make the most of them and help the team out so there's nothing like the thrill. You get the shivers down your spine when you walk out to bat on Boxing Day, the crowd yelling and it's a dream come true in a way.
"As a kid I always wanted to play in a Boxing Day Test match, I always remember watching the Boxing Day Tests at home and with the family after Christmas.
"To walk out on Boxing Day and play, you sort of get the shivers down your spine and the hairs on the back of your neck raise up and it's just a great feeling."
Unsurprisingly, Smith's dominance at the ground started against India, pummelling a 192 during a draw in 2014, in a game in which Kohli also scored a huge ton. In 2015, 2016 and 2017, Smith scored unbeaten centuries in the Boxing Day Test, his run ended by New Zealand last year.
Smith (1,431) is also nearing 1,500 Test runs against India, and he would become just the fifth Australian to manage the feat. They are opponents he has liked. His average of 79.5 against India from 22 innings is the highest of any Australian to have played more than six innings against them.
The star has milestones on the horizon against one of his favourite opponents – and on one of his favourite occasions.