Big Picture: Pakistan search for inspiration
All we want for Christmas is a contest, right? Well, Pakistan will hope for a miracle. If they topple Australia at the MCG it would come close to that.
After just about holding their own, to a degree, across the first three days in Perth, things unravelled quickly on the fourth, albeit the surface was tricky by the time Pakistan started their second innings.
Despite Pakistan’s second innings collapse last week, their biggest challenge appears taking 20 wickets with what looks a fairly threadbare attack. If the top order can build on the starts they got in the first innings in Perth they can at least have hope of building a total, although Australia’s attack is relentless.
(last five matches, most recent first)
In the spotlight: Marnus Labuschagne and Babar Azam
Team news: Australia unchanged…
Barring any late Christmas-dinner related injuries, Australia will be unchanged which means no place for hometown hero Boland who averages 13.80 at the MCG.
Australia 1 David Warner, 2 Usman Khawaja, 3 Marnus Labuschagne, 4 Steven Smith, 5 Travis Head, 6 Mitchell Marsh 7 Alex Carey (wk), 8 Mitchell Starc, 9 Pat Cummins (capt), 10 Nathan Lyon, 11 Josh Hazlewood
Pakistan have named a squad of 12 and will make a final decision on the XI at the toss. Mohammad Rizwan replaces Sarfaraz Ahmed as wicketkeeper. Khurram Shahzad has been ruled out of the tour with a rib fracture and Faheem Ashraf has been dropped. That means two of Hasan Ali, Mir Hamza and Sajid Khan will play. Sajid appears likely to be included unless the pitch looks better for four quicks and Agha Salman.
Pakistan 1 Abdullah Shafique, 2 Imam-ul-Haq, 3 Shan Masood (capt), 4 Babar Azam, 5 Saud Shakeel, 6 Mohammad Rizwan (wk), 7 Agha Salman, 8 Hasan Ali/Mir Hamza, 9 Sajid Khan, 10 Aamer Jamal, 11 Shaheen Shah Afridi
Pitch and conditions
The groundsman, Matt Page, has promised a well-grassed surface with pace and bounce – although the latter two factors may not reach Perth levels. Life has been tricky for batters at the MCG in recent seasons. But this pitch only has 6-7mm of grass compared to 10mm plus on previous Boxing Days and is less thatchy. The pitch has been under the covers since December 24 due to relentless rain on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. The forecast is not ideal with a high chance of more showers on the first day more on the second, but an improvement after that. However, things can change quickly in Melbourne.
Stats and trivia
- Travis Head needs 42 runs to reach 3000 in Tests
“It looks really good, fair bit of grass, probably a fair bit harder and not as green as last year, knowing it was potentially going to be under covers today and for a little bit tomorrow maybe, so we’ll see how it plays but it looks like a really good wicket.” Australia captain Pat Cummins on the MCG pitch.
“It was hard out there in Perth. But I still feel there were some positives that probably we didn’t do back when we were here in 2019. We don’t want to force people to play a certain way. But we’ve sort of outlined certain things that we want to do better.” Pakistan captain Shan Masood on the style of cricket Pakistan want to play in Melbourne.
Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo