Dropped-in pitch debates, selection speculation and England's schizophrenia mean it's very hard to predict what will happen on Boxing Day at cricket's concave spitting yoghurt pot, the MCG. The stats do, however (in contrast to their rotten and ever more putrefying record in Perth), offer some very mild solace for England in that they have won twice at the MCG in the last 25 years, in 1986 and 1998, although the Baggy Greens have won the other four.
The Guardian's leather and willow Big Poppa, Mike Selvey, yesterday made the point that the MCG drop-in pitch is installed at the start of the season so it should perhaps not be regarded too suspiciously, but it does seem that it might be a bit spicier than previous Melbourne tracks. With that in mind, here is the list of leading Ashes wicket takers there for those previous six tests in the last quarter-century. The mulleted, dervishy, yet somehow soothingly classical Bruce Reid (see above) tops the charts with 17, having recorded match figures of 13-148 in 1990; SKW (despite only playing two Ashes tests at the MCG) is second on 16, with Darren Gough joint third with Stuart MacGill on 14 after two pie-pumpingly good displays in 1994 and 1998. The stand-out stat in there for me is 6/60, Dean Headley's second innings figures from that 1998 match, a game to which I hope to return in the next couple of days.
The headline statistic, though, is one that rather sheds light on why Australia, despite his broken finger, much-criticised captaincy and batting doldrums, are so desperate for Ponting to turn out: in the last 25 years he tops the bowling averages for all players at the MCG. Some people may sniffily point out he's only bowled four overs there but I say get a tissue, sweetheart, and remember how even prolific English captains have been undone by Punter's fiendish seamers.