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It is December, the much-awaited prestigious boxing day test match is here. The Australians will be taking on the scuffling Indians at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, starting this Saturday. 

The visitors after losing the first test match would be hoping to make a comeback in this encounter. They would be looking to diminish the sad reality of being bundled out for a mere score of 36. The Aussies on the other side will be looking forward to going up 2-0 in the series and the departure of skipper Virat Kohli only adds to India’s worries.

The Australians will play with a depleted side but they will be feeling boosted after the dominating performance by their pacers in the opening test. The Indian batsmen had no answer to their bowling in the 2nd innings and their key players- Rahane and Pujara will have to step up and take responsibility if they are to level the series.

Rahane will lead India for the time away from home and he has been undefeated in his two matches as skipper- one against the same opposition and the other being the historic test match against Afghanistan. Can he continue his winning form in away conditions as well?

The visitors will have to bounce back in order to reconsolidate their rankings in the longest format. Can Rahane lead his side to a victory and level the series? Or will the Baggy Greens make easy work of the Indians?

Head to Head

Matches Played- 99, Australia- 43, India- 28, Draw- 27, Tie-1

Team News

Australia will once again be without the service of their key batsman- David Warner, who is still recovering from a groin injury. The team does look well balanced. Both the openers- Matthew Wade and Joe Burns showed great touch in the 4th innings and that would definitely boost the confidence of the Aussies going into the second test. With a stunning win over the Indians, the Australian management is likely to feature the same playing Xl.

India on the other side is likely to feature a revamped side. The departure of Virat Kohli means that Rahane will lead the side. The inexperienced opening pair of Prithvi Shaw and Mayank Agarwal found it hard in the first to get going and that will clear the way for Shubman Gill. 

Mohammad Shami has been ruled out of the Test series due to a fractured arm and he is likely to be replaced by 26-year old Mohammad Siraj. The other change Team India would be looking forward to making is the replacement of Saha by Rishabh Pant. the 23-year old could add the required firepower in the middle-order and also does a wonderful job behind the stumps. All-rounder Ravindra Jadeja has been deemed fit and he is likely to make the line-up in place of Hanuman Vihari.

Pitch and Conditions

The pitch in Melbourne as we know is a batsman-friendly one. Said that the first few overs with the new ball is expected to be challenging for the batsman and will ease out once the ball loses its shine. Spinners are expected to dominate the proceedings from Day 3 as the pitch starts to wear out. Cricket Australia has made sure no BBL matches have been played at this venue so as to keep the strip fresh for this mouth-watering encounter.

The conditions are ideal for cricket as clear skies are expected throughout the course of the day with an exception being Day 2, where rain is expected to interrupt play for at least a couple of hours. The temperature is expected to be hovering in the 14-19 degree range and the humidity at the peak is expected to touch the 50 percent mark.

Probable Playing Xl

Australia (Aus): Joe Burns, Matthew Wade, Marnus Labuschagne, Steven Smith, Travis Head, Cameron Green, Tim Paine (c & wk), Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood

India (Ind): Ajinkya Rahane (c), Mayank Agarwal, Cheteshwar Pujara, Shubman Gill, Hanuman Vihari, Ravindra Jadeja, Rishabh Pant (wk), Ravichandran Ashwin, Umesh Yadav, Mohammad Siraj, Jasprit Bumrah

Key Battles

Steve Smith (Aus) vs Ravichandran Ashwin (Ind)

Steve Smith Ravichandran Ashwin India
Steve Smith (Aus) vs Ravichandran Ashwin (Ind)

We predicted the same key battle for the first test and we saw the off-spinner get the better of the Aussie. Smith never looked set in the first test as he was struggling to time the ball and the foxy off-spinner Ashwin took full advantage of it and made him edge the ball to first slip. We feel that once again the battle between the two could be entertaining. 

Ashwin undoubtedly was India’s best bowler and given that the Melbourne pitch tends to heavily favor the spinners in the last two days, Ashwin could prove to be a vital player.

Can the off-spinner claim the big wicket of Smith? Or will the Aussie come on top?

Josh Hazlewood (Aus) and Ajinkya Rahane (Ind)

Josh Hazlewood Ajinkya Rahane India
Josh Hazlewood (Aus) and Ajinkya Rahane (Ind)

Hazlewood was rather quiet in the first innings claiming just 1 wicket. But he was in full flow in the second innings, along with Pat Cummins picked up 9 wickets in the space of 15 overs and made sure the visitors were bundled out for a humiliating score of 36.

Ajinkya Rahane, who will now be leading the Indian team will be looking forward to guiding his team over the line and for that, he will have to negotiate the danger of Hazlewood. The Indian would be feeling confident as he has a century to name at this very venue but Hazlewood knows the conditions better.

Who do you think will win this intriguing battle?

Prediction

Team India are almost certain of making at least five changes for the boxing day test. This is likely to do good for the Men in Blue in the future, it looks highly unlikely they can click as a team in this encounter. The adaption to the conditions and pacy attack of the Aussies would be difficult in terms with.

The Indians have a very poor record in away conditions and the worst in Australia. They would also be playing without their key batsman- Virat Kohli. The Aussies might take things for granted after the thumping win in the first test but they are a team who can completely transform the game in the second half. 

Cricwizz predicts Australia to win the 2nd Test