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The test series between India and Australia is turning out to be an absolutely enthralling one. The visitors won the first test in Adelaide while Australia won the second one in Perth. India was more dominant than the scoreline suggested in the first test match while the difference between the two sides was lesser than the scorecard suggests in the second.
There was also a lot of needle on the field, some exchange of words between the two captains, and some very hostile fast bowling in the second test match. The series is well and truly alive now that Australia has managed to win its first test match since the ball-tampering saga.
The series now shifts to Melbourne for the boxing day test match between India and Australia. This test match is one of the most highly awaited events of the summer but the surface at the MCG has not quite been able to live up to expectations the last few times.
It remains to be seen whether the curator will be able to provide a result oriented surface this time around.
The Australian side rediscovered its mojo in the last match on a quick Perth wicket. The surface may have been fast but it was not as vicious as pre-match reports suggested and it was Nathan Lyon who ended up doing the most damage in the end.
The Australians have named the same eleven for this upcoming boxing day test match as well. The only selection question that lies in front of the Aussies is whether to keep Peter Handscomb in the playing eleven or replace him with Mitchell Marsh.
We think they might go with Marsh in this match even though most sides avoid changing a winning combination.
The surface at the MCG is one which is expected to be a lot flatter, even if the groundsman leaves additional grass on it to try and breathe some life into it. This means that there will be a lot of overs that the bowlers will have to potentially bowl.
We think the Aussies will want to reinforce their bowling setup with the presence of Mitchell Mash who can be a fifth bowling option. The only downside with the approach is that Mitchell Marsh is going to bat at 6, which is a bit of a risk.
Mitchell Marsh has also done nothing of note in the Sheffield Shield matches in the interim to justify that change. If the team management does give him a chance and he does not end up scoring runs, it is going to put huge pressure on the team management.
There are a lot of positives for Australia going into this match. Their bowling attack is bowling very well. Mitchell Starc bowled with fire, Pat Cummins was desperately unlucky not to have more wickets to his name, Hazelwood continued to hassle the openers, and Nathan Lyon is proving to be the difference between the sides.
Lyon’s ability to keep one end ties up and keep attacking the Indian batsmen allows Australia to play with four bowlers as well in case they do decide to go that way.
Australia will be hoping that Marcus Harris, Travis Head, and Usman Khawaja can make the most of the batting conditions at the MCG. This batting unit is starting to hit form but is still a bit fallible and one area where the Indians will sense an opportunity.
An Aussie team playing in home conditions back to winning ways can be very tough to stop.
Marcus Harris, Aaron Finch, Usman Khawaja, Shaun Marsh, TM Head, Mitchell Marsh, Tim Paine, Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Nathan Michael Lyon, JR Hazlewood.
India fought hard in the second test thanks largely to Virat Kohli’s brilliant century and its fast bowlers. The problem for them had been a poor selection which hamstrung them from the beginning and a continued inability of their openers to provide any sort of contribution to the side.
If Australia has one tough selection question regarding Mitchell Marsh and Peter Handscomb, India has plenty.
Which one of the openers should be dropped from the playing eleven? Lokesh Rahul, who has had one score of over 40 being over aggressive but never looked at ease on the crease or Murali Vijay who has spent more time without going anywhere?
Is Ashwin going to be picked in the side or will India be averse to trying him out in the third test?
Has Hanuma Vihari done enough to hold his place ahead of Rohit Sharma?
Is there a place for Hardik Pandya in the side now that he is available?
Has Rishab Pant done enough to keep his place as the primary keeper?
There are several options in front of India, clearly. Here is what we think they will do.
India is going to bring in Mayank Aggarwal in place of one of the openers, most likely Murali Vijay, and then keep the rest of the batting lineup as same. Pujara, Kohli, and Rahane are certainties at 3,4,5.
Rohit Sharma will walk back into the side if he is fit even though Hanuma Vihari did not do too much wrong. An outside chance would be to promote Vihari to open the inning in place of Vijay for a completely different opening combination.
Hardik Pandya will join the side as seam bowling all-rounder at 7, Ravindra Jadeja will play this test at 8, and then three fast bowlers keep their place. This will result in India having a batting lineup that extends till 8, five bowlers to share the load including Jadeja to exploit the rough created by the right arm fast bowlers.
The selection is a bit tough on Hanuma Vihari but otherwise gives the Indian side a good shot at victory. Also, there has been a lot of criticism of Virat Kohli about his on-field aggression, something we find very funny coming from the Australians. It will serve as an extra motivator to the best batsman in the world who is already desperate to win outside India.
Mayank Agarwal, H Vihari, Cheteshwar Pujara, V Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma, RR Pant, Ravindra Jadeja, Mohammed Shami, I Sharma, JJ Bumrah.
The side winning the toss is likely to bat first
Read our guide on toss predictions to learn how we analyze and come up with our tips.
The Boxing Day test match between Australia and India is going to be played at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, Melbourne. The MCG came in for severe criticism and was given a poor rating by the match officials for its unchanging nature. The contest between bat and ball was uneven with the bowlers not having adequate chances to take wickets.
There is a good chance that the surface at the MCG will have more grass on it and hopefully restore the balance somewhat but it is still expected to be a good batting surface.
India and Australia are two pretty evenly matched sides, especially in these conditions. We don’t think the Indians are favorites going into this contest but they definitely have a chance to win. Their batting is superior to the Australians and the fast bowlers are in excellent form.
Australia has the advantage if having the best off-spinner on its side to complement one of the best trios of fast bowlers they have ever had.
Winning the toss is going to be crucial and we recommend backing the team that bats first. Right now, though, we think it is India that will come out the winner in this contest.
Back Inda to win. A hedge on the draw is also a good option.
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