Our prediction is that India will come back at the MCG to win the third Test to go 2-1 up in the series
The hosts have managed to stay afloat in the series with a crushing win at Perth against India to level the series 1-1. The drop-in pitch at the new Perth stadium had the pace and bounce of the old WACA pitch and had some unevenness as well throughout the match with the pitch looking flat occasionally.
It was a well-fought contest wherein Australia got the crucial 43 run lead in the first innings despite a measured century from the Indian captain. Australia’s second innings collapse did not stop them from setting a target close to 300 which proved too much of an ask on a wearing pitch.
India played 4 seamers instead of having a spin replacement for injured Ashwin. The fourth seamer, Umesh Yadav, couldn’t do much damage whereas Australia’s lone spinner Nathan Lyon blew India away with a Man of the Match performance of 106 for 8. India must be looking to get the team combination back on track to have the edge in the series again.
Australia told India at Perth that they are not going to surrender easily. Not at home at the very least. The victory at Perth was their first after Sandpaper Gate fiasco in Cape Town.
Australia fielded the same XI that played in Adelaide which meant they trusted their batting order, especially Finch, to come good at Perth. And it did, in patches. Finch along with first innings top scorer Marcus Harris set the foundation for Australia to get a total of above 300, which meant despite the collapse in the second innings they could set a difficult target to India thanks to patient half-century by Khawaja. Lyon did what he does best, tightened the screws when asked, took out the wickets when needed. When he removed Kohli in the second it was game over for India.
Australia wouldn’t want to tinker with the winning combination much. Openers are contributing. Khawaja is back in form. Though Handscomb seems to be the only one who hasn't had any sort of impact yet, it looks unlikely that he will miss out at Melbourne.
Tim Paine (c), Pat Cummins, Aaron Finch, Peter Handscomb, Marcus Harris, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, Shaun Marsh, Mitchell Starc
Two things are being reminded to India again and again, in South Africa, England and now in Australia, that they can't win Tests away from home only on Kohli's back and that the right team combination is the key to success.
Injuries to Ashwin and Rohit prompted changes in the playing XI. Looking at the green pitch at Perth, India went for the pace of Umesh Yadav as the fourth seamer. Instead, Ravindra Jadeja could have tied one end while the seamers took turns at the other end especially after the marathon effort three days ago at Adelaide. Bhuvi might have proved to be the better seamer in swinging conditions. Not to forget the batting support these two might have provided to reduce the length of the long Indian tail.
Openers too failed to make any sort of impact talking of which opener Prithvi Shaw has been ruled out of the series. Ashwin should be fit for the next Test and should come right back in the squad. Mayank Agarwal and Hardik Pandya have been called up for the last two Tests. Mayank might replace Vijay, and Hardik or Rohit would replace Hanuma Vihari.
Virat Kohli (c), Ajinkya Rahane, Mayank Agarwal, Ravichandran Ashwin, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Rishabh Pant, Cheteshwar Pujara, KL Rahul, Ishant Sharma, Rohit Sharma
MCG is getting spiced up this time. It is not going to be road it was during the last boxing day Test in 2017 where it received a ‘poor’ rating by the match referee. The pitch is supposed to offer pace and bounce and will deteriorate as the game progresses bringing spinners into the action.
As in the first two Tests, the first innings lead is going to be crucial here. The team winning the toss should Bat first here to use the early conditions suitable for batting and then use the breaking pitch to try and force a win.
Virat is back in form and how. He produced one of his best hundreds in Test cricket on a pitch that had everything bowlers would want along with a bit of unevenness. It’s Virat’s decisions off the field that cost India the match. India gets a big boost with Ashwin back in the team.
Despite selection errors at Perth India managed to pick up 20 wickets and could come back in the game twice in two innings. Our prediction is that India will field the best-suited XI at the MCG to win the Boxing Day Test.
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