Last week, we started off our selection process for picking The Roar’s greatest Ashes XI. With about 1000 votes lodged on the initial poll, it’s now time to finalise the team.
With New Zealand losing the first Test at Optus Stadium by a daunting margin, Australia are favourites to win the MCG Test.
The last time Australia and New Zealand played a Test at the MCG was way back in 1987. That match was epic.
Australian tailender Mike Whitney withstood Sir Richard Hadlee’s assault to give Australia their first home summer victory in four seasons.
New Zealand fell one wicket short of winning the Test and levelling the series. Fast forward 32 years later and the two neighbours will meet again.
New Zealand fans across the ditch are keen to watch their team at the iconic MCG. According to reports, 16, 000 Kiwi fans will pack the MCG.
The players are keen as well to get on with things. Australia will go into the match on a real high.
The Kiwis will have their task cut out in pulling off a victory against the Australian team that seems to get better with time.
New Zealand has made two definite changes to the 11 that lost to Australia in Perth. Reserve wicketkeeper-batsman, Tom Blundell will open the batting for the Kiwis.
Struggling opener, Jeet Raval got the axe earlier in the week by the New Zealand selectors after a series of low scores over the last couple of months.
Star left-arm pacer, Trent Boult will make his return to the squad in place of the injured quick, Lockie Ferguson. Boult missed the previous Test because of a side strain.
There is an element of doubt about whether Mitchell Santner will start against Australia in the MCG Test. One key point of difference in the last Test was the performances of both spinners. Nathan Lyon picked up match figures of 6/111, whereas Santner picked up 0/146 for the match.
New Zealand’s pacers bowled well and for the match and kept thing tight. However, New Zealand’s batting was rather disappointing. In both innings, the Aussies bundled the Kiwis out for scores below 200, i.e., 166 and 171.
Only Ross Taylor aggregated over 100 runs for the match for the Kiwis and scored 50. The Kiwis will hope that the batting comes to the party at the MCG.
Will the Blundell move pay off? Tom Blundell is a regular batter at 6-7 for his domestic team, the Wellington Firebirds. So it will be a big ask of Blundell to open the batting when he has never done it at domestic level for his side. Taylor and Williamson will be huge factors if New Zealand are to post a good score.
As for the Aussies, well, everything seems to be perfect for Justin Langer’s men. Marnus Labuschagne has been in sublime form this year and season. The missing parts in the team seem to filling up. Australia have a solid top with three of the top four in good form this year.
Steve Smith, although he has been rusty this summer. He hasn’t scored a half-century this summer and will be keen to score a 50 or a ton as soon as possible.
Bowling wise, well, Australia is performing well. Starc picked up match figures of 9/97 for the match. Cummins kept things tight in the second innings as he went under 2 an over for the innings. Cummins was unlucky not to get more wickets in the match.
Even though he went over 3 an over in the first innings, he still bowled well and created opportunities. Despite being a bowler down, the Aussies still troubled the Kiwis and bowled the Kiwis for scores under 200 in both innings.
Australia has dominated test series against New Zealand. New Zealand has not beaten Australia in a Test series since 1990. Australia has won 14 Test series and New Zealand has won three Test series in battles between the two neighbours in Tests. At the MCG, both sides have played three Tests at the venue, and there have been two draws and one victory for the Aussies. In those three Tests.
The pitch has grass on it, but there is a bit of a mystery how it will play. The Australians have two sides prepared for the pitch, and one of them contains five bowlers.
Temperatures could reach a high of 41 on Day 5, i.e., if the Test reaches the fifth Day. Over the weekend, the temperatures might reach the mid-high 30s.
The match should be interesting. New Zealand will be keen to bounce back from that disappointing performance in the first Test. The Aussies will look to continue where they left off in Perth. If the Kiwis can pull off a victory or draw in this match, the Third Test the SCG next week, should be intriguing.
Will Australia seal the series with another brilliant performance or will the Kiwis bounce back and take the series into a decider at the SCG? Only time will tell. It should be an interesting contest between the two nations.