Boxing Day Test: Australia yet to decide line-up; New Zealand makes two changes

Australia will wait until Boxing Day to decide its team for the second Test against New Zealand, whereas the Kiwis have opted for two changes.

Captain Tim Paine said Australia had "two different teams" ahead of the Test, while playing down any suggestions playing a fifth bowler would be a risk.   -  Getty Images

Tim Paine revealed Australia was yet to decide whether to play a fifth bowler in the Boxing Day Test against New Zealand in Melbourne.

With Josh Hazlewood (hamstring) sidelined, James Pattinson is set to come in, but Michael Neser could also be included for a Test debut.

Paine said Australia would wait until Thursday to confirm its line-up as it keeps an eye on the MCG wicket, which has been lifeless in recent years and is set to again draw plenty of attention.

The Australia captain said Australia had "two different teams" ahead of the Test, while playing down any suggestions playing a fifth bowler would be a risk.

"Not looking at the wicket that we played on in the last two or three Boxing Day Test matches, that wicket has been very hard to take 20 wickets," Paine told a news conference on Wednesday.

"If it's something similar to that then it's certainly a possibility that that's the way we go.

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"Our batting team in the last few months has been scoring a lot of runs so if we were to go one more bowler we'd be comfortable they would do the job and obviously the bowlers we would be bringing in can all bat.

"Whilst we're taking a batter out we're probably lengthening our line-up a little bit so we'll see what happens tomorrow and go from there."

An additional bowler would mean Paine, who averages 30.40 in Tests, would move up from seven to six in the batting order.

But the 35-year-old is unfazed, saying: "If I have to bat in the top six that's what I'll do.

"I'm not too fussed whether it's six or seven, there's not a huge difference so we're all here to do what we think is best for the team.

"If guys bat up or down the order a little bit more than usual then that's what we'll do, same with our new-ball guys, we swap the new ball around and guys have taken that on board and played their role."

New Zealand makes two changes

New Zealand made two changes with fast bowler Trent Boult back from injury and Tom Blundell replacing Jeet Ravel at the top of the order.

The dangerous Boult missed the first Test in Perth, where his team crashed by 296 runs, with a rib injury that also kept him out of its final clash against England.

But he has worked his way back to fitness, desperate to play in the Black Caps first Boxing Day Test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground since 1987, with a crowd of more 75,000 expected on day one.

Williamson also confirmed Blundell, usually a middle-order batsman, would open alongside Tom Latham in place of the out-of-form Ravel.

“He’s a positive player and a smart cricketer so it’s just trying to adapt to the conditions. It’s important he goes out and plays his natural game,” Williamson told reporters of Blundell.

“He’s been a very good player for a long time and he’s a mature head ... it’s a really exciting opportunity for him.”

New Zealand has had 10 days to recover from its Perth day-night Test thrashing, which saw its batsmen skittled for 166 and 171.

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Williamson said they had learned from their mistakes.

“Perth was tough and Australia are very good and tactically sound,” he said after his team were put through their paces in the nets on Christmas Day.

“It’s important we learn from some bits of Perth but turn our focus to Melbourne and changing conditions and perhaps not be too reactive to that performance.”

Williamson was also keen to ensure his players do not get carried away with playing in front of such a big crowd during one of the most prestigious days on the cricket calendar.

“I guess there’s a sense of romance about being involved in the Boxing Day Test ... at the same time it’s about removing a little bit of that and bringing the focus back to the cricket and making those improvements we need to.”

 

(With inputs from PTI)

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