AUSTRALIA v PAKISTAN - 2ND TEST
Melbourne, December 26th
Australia may have won the pink-ball Test at the Gabba but it wasn’t without a huge scare. Pakistan recovered from a poor first-innings to almost achieve the improbable falling just short. Armed with a 1-0 lead, the Aussies now head to Melbourne for the Boxing Day Test and with an ambition to take an unassailable lead.
The hosts dearly needed to get back on track after a poor start to their summer. Two consecutive wins – albeit with pink-ball – point towards a change of fortunes. The young guns Matt Renshaw and Peter Handscomb seem to have integrated well and rallying around captain Steve Smith with the bat.
Their only concern remains the unflattering returns of Nic Maddinson and he could be replaced by debutant all-rounder Hilton Cartwright for this game. Bowling looks in safe hands with Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc proving to be a formidable duo. Melbourne will take spin as the match progresses which could mean an important role for Nathan Lyon.
Can Pakistan take confidence from the Gabba?
Rarely does defeat spark accolades as their performance in the first Test did! Asad Shafiq in the company of tail-enders almost took them past the line. It only left the visitors wondering what it could have been had they not collapsed in the first innings.
Pressure is now firmly on the experienced duo of Younis Khan and Misbah-ul-Haq to improve their scores in the first innings. Sami Aslam played solid without looking enterprising at the top but the visitors would need him to score some runs too. The left-arm duo of Mohamad Amir and Wahab Riaz led the attack well and the leg spin of Yasir Shah will be tough to face at the MCG.
Australia may go with only one change in their line-up with Cartwright replacing Maddinson. The bowling workload that their four-prong attack carried at the Gabba is a concern and the young all-rounder is expected to reduce the burden.
Pakistan will have to rethink their strategy of going with three left-arm pacers as it didn’t give them any novelty in their attack. Rahat Ali could be swapped with Sohail Khan and there’s a school of thought around including all-rounder Mohammad Nawaz too. The latter may mean a swap with Babar Azam which looks highly unlikely at this moment.
The market still favors an Australian win as seen in the odds offered – 1.47. Pakistan should feel confident ahead of this match and don’t rule their resurgence out. The Aussies aren’t yet back to their fearsome best and this should give the visitors a shot in the arm. Back Pakistan to win the Test to win at odds of around 6.00.
Hazlewood is a top bet with the ball for Australia and at odds of 3.50 remains a good option to punt. MCG’s history with spinners gives hope for Yasir and backing him to be Pakistan’s best bowler – odds of 4.00 – don’t look out of place.