Last year’s Boxing Day hero Scott Boland has retained his spot in Australia’s bowling attack and will line up at the Melbourne Cricket Ground against South Africa beginning Monday.
The fast bowler will return to the scene of his Test debut last December, with Australia selectors opting for Boland over Josh Hazlewood, who continues his recovery from a side strain.
Captain Pat Cummins confirmed Sunday that Australia would stick with the same XI that beat the Proteas by six wickets in just two days in the first Test at the Gabba in Brisbane.
“We gave Joshy every chance, it just got to a stage where Joshy more than anyone else probably thought he was a bit underdone,” Cummins said.
“It’s probably the mark of the man that he himself thought, I don’t feel quite right’ and pulled himself out of selection.” Boland has taken 25 wickets in his five tests at an average of 10.36. The 33-year-old Boland ran through England batters with six wickets and allowing only seven runs at the MCG last year to secure man-of-the-match honours on debut to help Australia retain the Ashes.
Australia will be looking to secure its first test series win against South Africa on home soil since 2005-06 by going 2-0 up at the MCG. The third Test is in Sydney beginning January 4.
Veteran opener David Warner will become just the 14th Australian to play 100 tests when he lines up against the Proteas. The left-hander will be hoping his milestone match brings about some runs in the red-ball format — he has not scored a test century since January 2020.
South Africa captain Dean Elgar has confirmed at least one change to his side’s batting lineup but would not say who is in or out ahead of Monday’s toss at the MCG.
While Elgar praises their pace attack as the best in the world, South Africa is not making enough runs to give the bowlers a realistic chance. They have scored more than 400 only once this year, against Bangladesh.
Their woes were highlighted on the Gabba green-top in the first Test.
“Our build-up in Brisbane was brilliant, we had two weeks that the guys were actually batting quite well,” said the opener, who was dismissed for three and two at the Gabba.
“It was a bit of a hiccup that we had (at) the Gabba. But both batting units had that, bar one batsman (Travis Head’s 92 for Australia). Going back to the drawing board, that was the biggest thing for us and trying to simplify things, make guys aware of certain things that they’d maybe forgotten about.” The short Brisbane match put a spotlight on the Gabba wicket, which the International Cricket Council rated as below par.
Elgar said the MCG pitch is firming up well as Melbourne’s weather improves — “I hope it’s the past and never to be repeated again.” Teams:
Australia: David Warner, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith, Travis Head, Cameron Green, Alex Carey, Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins (captain), Scott Boland, Nathan Lyon.
South Africa: to be named on Monday.