File image: Australian players celebrate after taking the wicket of India's Ajinkya Rahane during the first Test in Adelaide on December 19, 2020. (Image: AP Photo/David Mairuz)
The Indian men’s cricket team will take on hosts Australia in the second Test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) on December 26. Popularly known as the Boxing Day Test, the contest provides Aussies a chance to secure an unassailable lead over the visitors in the four-match Border-Gavaskar series.
The annual Boxing Day Test at MCG normally draws a crowd of up to 80,000. But only 30,000 people will be allowed this time amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.
India lost the first test by eight wickets after getting bowled out for just 36 in the second innings. It was the fifth lowest team score in Test history and India’s lowest in the format. The batting order collapse in the second inning had handed hosts Australia a low target of 90 runs.
India were bowled out for 244 early on the second day of the day-night game before the bowlers managed to restrict the Aussies to just 191. India were placed 9/1 at stumps on Day 2 with a lead of 50-odd runs.
Yet, the touring side was unable to build on the first inning's lead and lost wickets in quick succession during the first session on Day 3. Australia’s Joe Burns and Matthew Wade setup the chase beautifully to give their side a 1-0 lead in the series.
Virat Kohli has returned to India for the birth of his child and Ajinkya Rahane will be taking over the captaincy. Luckily for India, this shift was planned well in advance. The setback received in the first Test could not have come at a worse time.
Rahane’s task is now cut-out: India needs to keep the series alive. But the team needs to do this without the services of Mohammed Shami and with two debutants.
The mood in the Australian dressing room would be the exact opposite. While David Warner is still not in the playing XI, their existing batting line-up did the job when they were required to.
Team news and playing XIs:
Rahane will be standing-in as the skipper. The playing XI has been announced. Prithvi Shaw has been dropped to make way for Shubman Gill’s debut. Rishabh Pant has been included in the side in place of Wriddhiman Saha as the wicketkeeper.
Mohammed Siraj will also make his debut after Mohammed Shami’s injury in the first Test. Ravindra Jadeja, who missed the Adelaide Test due to concussion, will return to the side.
On the other hand, it is unlikely that the Aussies will make any change to their playing XI for the second test.
Australia (probable): Joe Burns, Matthew Wade, Marnus Labuschagne, Steven Smith, Travis Head, Cameron Green, Tim Paine (Captain and WK), Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon and Josh Hazlewood.
India (declared): Mayank Agarwal, Shubman Gill (debut), Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane (Captain), Hanuma Vihari, Rishabh Pant (WK), Ravindra Jadeja, R Ashwin, Umesh Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Siraj (debut).
Pitch report and weather
The opening day is expected to by sunny and dry with the temperature in Melbourne reaching 27 –degree Celsius. The temperature will rise to a maximum of 34 degree Celsius on the second day and we are expecting some rainfall. The next three days will remain partly overcast and much cooler.
We don’t expect a greenish top like what we had seen in Adelaide. That was primarily meant to protect the pink ball. We are likely to see a regular MCG wicket.
Also Read | Australia vs India cricket series: Here's when and where to watch
When and where to watch
The Boxing Day Test will commence at 5.00 am IST, just like the next two in Sydney and Brisbane.
All the matches in the series will be broadcast live on Sony Ten 1, Sony Ten 3 and Sony Six. As for watching the series online, the matches can be streamed live on SonyLiv.