About the Match
Pakistan stunned critics and cricket pundits around the world as they threatened to turn a foregone conclusion into a miraculous victory. They eventually fell a little short in Brisbane but won hearts and did wonders for their own confidence as well. The word from the Pakistan camp is that the players now have a belief that they can compete and even beat Australia in their own conditions.
Will Melbourne be the match where Pakistan prove their detractors wrong or was Brisbane a false dawn?
Australia won the first match long after it should have and everyone from the players to the support staff will know that they got away by the skin of their teeth. This Australian team is a young one that Steve Smith is trying to mold in his own image.
The opening combination is very young and even though Renshaw has had a very good start to his test career, a lot of careers have flickered out after a promising start. David Warner has looked to be in good form but for some reasons the big test runs seem to be evading him. 2016 is promising to be his worst career in test cricket and even though he has got plenty of starts, he has failed to capitalize on them in the manner that Warner is known for.
His form in the ODI’s against New Zealand seem to indicate that a big knock is just around the corner though and we would bet on him making a hundred on the opening day of the Boxing day if Australia wins the toss and bat first
Khawaja scored a fluent 74 in the second innings of the first test and showed that he can be very dangerous after an initial settling in period. Wait for him to get past the first thirty deliveries that he faces and if does, back him for a big score.
Steve Smith has shown that captaincy seems to bring out the best in his batting. He scored a fluent hundred in the first innings benefitting from some poor catching and other strokes of luck. There is nothing to say that he will not continue to pile up the runs like has done at home over the last few months.
The batting after Smith is a little dicey, though. Peter Handscomb, Nic Maddinson, and Matthew Wade have all looked out of sorts. There is a very good chance that Nic Maddinson may miss out and make way for Hilton Cartwright to make his debut.
The Australian batting is very heavily dependent on Smith and Warner performing so the opposition knows they are in with a shout if they get these two crucial wickets early.
The bowling for Australia is very impressive and we expect the same set of bowlers to make their way on the field for the boxing day test.
Players to Watch out for
: David Warner is due for a big score and the occasion of a boxing day test in front of a packed crowd may just be the inspiration he required. Mitchell Starc seems to have been around for a long time but has surprisingly never featured in a boxing day test. This appearance will be his first one and look to him to make it count.
It is remarkable how well Pakistan has done in test cricket considering that they play all their matches away from home. The team was ranked top of the test rankings earlier in this year and their performance in the first match shows that they can never be counted out.
The main issue that plagues Pakistan cricket is their consistency. Pakistan is prone to some spectacular batting collapses, like the one they suffered in the first innings of the first test and their much-vaunted pace bowling has found Australia to be the hardest to crack of all the places in the world.
The two most experienced players in their batting line up, Misbah and Younis Khan are at the very end of their careers. Australia has pushed many a player to the end of their rope and this could well be the case for these two players as well. Melbourne though is an easier surface to bat on as compared to Brisbane and so expect a better performance from them this time around.
Opener and captain in waiting, Azhar Ali showed a lot of steel in the first match and can be a good option to bet on for making the highest aggregate of runs for Pakistan in this match. Asad Shafiq, the hero from the first match, is the poster child of Pakistani inconsistency. He has scored three hundreds and five ducks in his last thirteen tests.
A bet on him scoring less than 20 would be a bet that offers good value and be worthwhile looking at his history of not being able to string together a series of big innings.
Pakistan may make a change in their bowling lineup and include Sohail Khan in place of Rahat Ali to have more variety in their attack.
Players To Watch Out For
: Yasir Shah was very impressive in the first test but dreadfully unlucky. Players seemed to keep dropping easy catches of his bowling although evidence of his skill was clearly seen. We believe that his luck will turn and put him in the wickets for this match.
Misbah Ul Haq is someone whose career will end in the next few years. The importance of the man to the team is such that no one is bothered about his dip in form at age 42. This may be his time to repay the faith.
: Pakistan will need to lift their game remarkably in all aspects but especially fielding to come close to matching Australia in their home conditions. We do not think that it will happen and Australia has just too much going for them to lose.
Australia To Win