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View from Down Under: Cricket and Sailing a Big Boxing Day Tradition

Unlike in North America, Christmas Day and sports betting do not mix in Australia unless you count side bets on the outcome of the countless games of backyard cricket and totem tennis being played around the country.

Christmas Day is now the only day of the year where no major sports are played in Australia, while it is the only one of two, the other being Good Friday, where there is no horse racing.

But come Boxing Day, everything changes and a nation embraces our love of sport and our love of what we call the punt, or betting.

The key Boxing Day event is Test cricket at the best sporting venue in the world, the MCG. This has become a massive tradition, especially for those in Melbourne, with usually over 70,000 in attendance for the first day.

This year Australia hosts Pakistan in what suddenly looms as a competitive series after the tourists almost pulled off the greatest run chase in the history of cricket at Brisbane last week.

Australia went into that match at $1.36 (-278) favorites, but is slightly longer at $1.40 (-250) for this one after a tighter than expected opening Test, where Pakistan fell just 40 runs short of a massive upset victory.

Pakistan is $5.50 (+450) to win this match, having now lost 10 consecutive Test matches on Australian soil, while the draw is priced at $6 (+500). Given that Melbourne is known for its fickle weather, it is interesting to note that there has been only one draw in a Boxing Day Test since 1997.

Australia's record in Melbourne is pretty impressive, having only lost two matches at the MCG this century, but the pitch conditions are more likely to suit the Pakistan bowlers.

In recent years, Test cricket hasn’t been the only cricketing action on Boxing Day, with the Big Bash T20 competition running throughout the festive season. Hobart plays host to a match between the Hobart Hurricanes and the Melbourne Stars.

The market for this will open closer to the match, but if the amount of money bet on the opening clash of the BBL on Tuesday night is any guide, betting on this competition is set to put betting on the Test to shame.

There is another significant Boxing Day sporting tradition in Australia, the Sydney Hobart Yacht Race. Yes, you read correctly, while loading up on Christmas dinner leftovers, Aussies love to cheer home giant boats as they race their way down our eastern seaboard between Christmas and New Year’s.

The markets have Wild Oats XI as a raging $1.50 (-200) favorite to make it to Hobart first for the ninth time, with chances given the CQS, Scallywag and Perpetual.

The race usually takes three or four days, depending on the conditions.

There is the usual offering of A-League action over an extended Christmas period, headlined by Brisbane hosting Western Sydney on Friday night. Brisbane is $1.95 (-105) to win that match, with the Wanderers at $3.70 (+270).

In fact, the top four sides are all favored to win, with top-placed Sydney also $1.95 (-105) as they travel to Adelaide on Boxing Day.

The NBL has an abbreviated three-match round, which also has a Boxing Day highlight, an open-air match between Melbourne United and the Brisbane Bullets in Melbourne. United are the favorites, but have injury issues. The Bullets could spring an upset.   

Boxing Day is also traditionally a time when many Aussies reacquaint themselves with thoroughbred racing, with a multitude of meetings on offer. There are 26 race meetings held across Australia on Boxing Day, second only to Melbourne Cup day as the busiest racing day in the country.