Test Cricket: An in-depth look of Australia’s Starting XI for the Boxing Day Test ahead of the first ball v India tomorrow at the Melbourne Cricket Ground

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Let’s begin this post with two Opening Batsmen on show in the Baggy Green.

You got the Victorian pair of Aaron Finch and Marcus Harris batting together which does delight the local crowd.

Finch did recover his strained right index finger in time from last week in Perth.

But the questions remains whether Finch can still make a maiden Test 100 for Australia as an Opener.

If not, maybe it’s the right time to move him down the order at possibly No.4 or 5.

That will be the outcome we will see over the next five days.

On the other hand, Marcus Harris has so far done a great job.

It may not be a quick impact as you expect after scoring plenty of runs at first-class level.

But M.Harris is on the right track after scoring his maiden half-ton of 70 last week.

He continues to bat classicly like Head Coach Justin Langer has done for a long time back in his day.

Playing simple and utilizing these flat bat shots by waiting for the ball to come to him & head staying still is the way to fire off.

Like how he scored a straight drive shot down the ground through the gap for four.

His head remained still and kept firmly where the ball landed.

And that’s one of the demonstrations Harris used these basics numerous times to frustrate the Indian bowlers and back up his base Test 50.

Expect Harris to keep playing what he’s learned last week and try to clinch that maiden 100 & form a big stand with Finch this time.

Top Order

Usman Khawaja will remain at first-drop as he will have a lot of work to do in staying consistent.

Khawaja may have scored five in the 1st innings.

However, he has kept the critics quiet after backing up his 72 run score in the 2nd innings.

The same goes to Shaun Marsh at No.4 where he scored 45 in the first followed by five in the 2nd spell.

Up and down scores don’t guarantee future selection for Australia as it’s not long now before David Warner & Steve Smith return from their suspensions after March 2019.

Middle Order

Travis Head has done well so far at No.5 scoring back to back half-centuries.

He likes to keep it simple every time Heads bats in the middle.

A good cross-bat player, Head always effectively execute these high-risk shots.

As long as he doesn’t get lazy by planting his bay & foot closer to the ball, Head will do well.

If Head can secure a maiden Test 100 this time around, then he will remain in this position for a long time.

Let’s move to the No.6 batsman now.

As said earlier, Mitchell Marsh will need to use every minute of his recall wisely without too many mistakes.

M.Marsh is there to back up the main quick bowlers just in case if they’re huffing and puffing later in a day’s play.

Whether he has a ball in hand to pitch up quick or comes in the middle to bat, it cannot be inconsistent or sub-par.

Otherwise, he will straightaway go back to his state team in Western Australia/Perth Scorchers and try again like Peter Handscomb.

Wicket-Keeper

Tim Paine leads the Baggy Green Team and keeps wicket at No.7.

Paine performed a couple of catches last week as well as making a contribution of 38 & 37 in both innings respectively.

The shot selections and technique Paine employed in the middle looks classic by keeping it simple.

Yes, he comes in when most of the top order get out after a free ride by the Indian bowlers.

But his hard work continues to hold them back as his leadership and strategy skills helped Australia win the 2nd Test.

If he continues to make miracles again, then no doubt that Langer & Paine will help this country retain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.

Lower Order Part 1

Pat Cummins comes in at No.8.

Cummins nailed down a cameo 19 in the 1st innings followed by just only one run in the 2nd stint.

Regarding the ball, he may have picked up only one scalp on Virat Kohli during the first time.

But he finished off the 2nd Test nicely to deliver a crucial win for Australia by getting rid of both the tail-enders via his short ball play:

  • Ishant Sharma, Catch from Tim Paine
  • Jasprit Bumrah, Catch by Cummins

Apart from that, his spells looked a little expansive so expect Cummins to play both roles this time around:

Add a bit more pace with the ball
Continue contributing in scoring some quickfire runs at the crease

After Cummins, Mitchell Starc comes in at No.9.

This time Starc has answered some critics about his lack of pace from the 1st Test in Adelaide.

But with a couple of short ball and stump hitting scalps, Starc this time has bowled decent with an attacking line and length.

So good to see Starc add some pace and improve on his game with the ball.

Yes, he may look tired at some point feeling his pace began to plummet a bit.

However, he will be taken care just fine as Starc will play a key role in demolishing India’s top order.


Lower Order Part 2

Joining Starc will be Nathan Lyon at No.10.

Lyon continues to dominate as one of the leading wicket-takers in this series.

He always likes to attack mainly the off-stump with some variation of turn which helped him rack up plenty of rewards.

And that’s what any Indian batsman in the Top 7 will need to be aware whenever they bat in the 1st or 2nd innings.

And at last, Josh Hazlewood at No.11.

Like Starc, Hazlewood’s good at pitching up length balls at any change of variation with the bounce and pace.

In three out of the four wickets, Hazlewood took last week comes from short balls.

But that one scalp on KL Rahul was perfect when he topped the off-stump away and forced him to lose all authority in the middle.

Hazlewood produced that ball nice in a straight line & KL Rahul couldn’t believe it when he jumped deep and defended poorly without his bat and front foot planted together.

His hard should continue by keep targeting towards attacking the off-stump and making the batsman play.

You never know that at one time a batsman could make a mistake edging straight to slip and the fielder takes a gentle catch.

Australia’s 3rd Test Starting XI

  1. Marcus Harris
  2. Aaron Finch
  3. Usman Khawaja
  4. Shaun Marsh
  5. Travis Head
  6. Mitchell Marsh
  7. Tim Paine, Captain
  8. Pat Cummins
  9. Mitchell Starc
  10. Nathan Lyon
  11. Josh Hazlewood, Vice-Captain

Conclusion

Overall, it’s a good looking squad as Australia is fully ready to win another Test Match.

If so, they will be one step closer of retaining the Border Gavaskar Trophy in Australia having last done so in 2014-15.

Some of them well established in Test Match level like S. Marsh, Paine & Khawaja in the batting department.

Plus their bowling cartel of Starc, Hazlewood, Cummins & Lyon.

Mitchell Marsh’s also experienced both bat and ball.

But we’ll wait and see if he avoids disappointment to the Australian Cricketing public by scoring at least past 50 & a few wickets.

Don’t forget some making their mark coming from the Australian ODI/T20 Team or Domestic level like Finch, Head & Harris.

It’s all about putting value and effort on the field as the four-match 2018/19 Domain Tests v India isn’t over yet.

The Morning Session of the 3rd Test Match will commence from 10.30 PM AEDT, 30 minutes after the coin toss has decided.

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