Australia v West Indies
Second Test – Melbourne
Starts Saturday, 26 December 10:30
The struggling West Indies will hope to take some inspiration from one of the more decorated fixtures in Australian cricket when they head to Melbourne for the traditional Boxing Day test against the in-form hosts.
Australia had little trouble in overwhelming the tourists in Hobart, finishing the match off in just three days despite the intervention of intermittent rain. A gargantuan partnership of 449 between Adam Voges and Shaun Marsh lead the home side to 4/583, before Josh Hazlewood and James Pattinson ripped through the Windies top order in each innings to dismiss them for 223 and 148. Incredibly centurion Marsh could find himself out of the side on Boxing Day with Usman Khawaja proving his fitness with a Big Bash ton for the Sydney Thunder, although opener Joe Burns is also under pressure after failing to notch a half-century since Australia’s first test of the summer against New Zealand at the Gabba. With the pace bowlers rested from the Big Bash there aren’t expected to be any changes to the bowling attack that took the field in Hobart.
There was little solace for the Windies to take out of their performance at Bellerive, aside from Darren Bravo’s first innings century and Kraigg Brathwaite’s determined knock of 94 in the second dig. Captain Jason Holder was the only frontline bowler to concede less than five runs an over and the attack will have to do without Shannon Gabriel who sustained an ankle injury during the First Test. Medium-pacer Carlos Brathwaite is in the frame to replace Gabriel, while it has also been reported that leg-spinner Devendra Bishoo could be set for a recall, possibly at the expense of Jomel Warrican who took three of the four Australian wickets to fall in Hobart. Since their First Test capitulation the Windies have only had one two-day tour match against an inexperienced Victorian XI in which Kraigg Brathwaite and Jermaine Blackwood scored half-centuries but again the bowlers were unable to make much of an impression.
The MCG can throw up variable conditions for test matches, as evidenced by the last five first innings scores there of 530, 255, 156, 333 and 98. The second innings is generally the best time to bat with four of the past seven second innings totals exceeding 450. Last season’s match between Australia and India was the first draw there since 1997 and given the tourists’ lack of resolve only Melbourne’s volatile weather seems likely to prevent a result.
Australia are just 1.14 to win the match which is better than bank interest and perhaps only slightly less reliable. There is rain forecast for the first morning of the test, however given the MCG’s aversion to draws there would need to be several days of inclement weather predicted before you could be interested in the draw price of 10.50. Given the West Indies’ performance, not just in the First Test, but also against a couple of second-strong state sides in their tour matches to date, I’d be giving them a wide berth despite the sizeable 28.00 about the visitors.
Whilst you could back Australia with confidence there is more value in getting with the home side to get the job done quickly. Three of the West Indies’ past six tests have finished on day three, while four of Australia’s last seven tests have also failed to reach day four. With the hosts comfortably wrapping-up the first test inside three days despite some rain, look to back an early finish to the Boxing Day test at around 2.50 or bigger.