Tasmanian quick Jackson could debut at the MCG. Image courtesy of cricket.com.au
Australia can wrap up its Test series against Sri Lanka by winning the 2nd Test starting at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Boxing Day. After being forced to toil hard with the ball after losing Ben Hilfenhaus to injury, the hosts finally overcame their opponent in the final session in Hobart to win the series opener by 137 runs and move within a match of series victory.
Ben Hilfenhaus has been replaced by Tasmanian seamer Jackson Bird in Australia’s squad for the Boxing Day Test after his state teammate was ruled out with a side strain picked up in Hobart. The 26 year-old is a strong chance to make his national debut on the biggest stage as well, with selectors hesitant to play both Mitchell Starc and Mitchell Johnson in the same side. While the left armers with the same name can both be strike weapons, they can also be wayward and it would be a risk to play both in the side again after they were on the receiving end of a hammering from Hashim Amla and Graeme Smith on day two at the WACA. Bird has a great record at the MCG - with 14 wickets from two Sheffield Shield matches at the ground – and is also the leading wicket taker in the competition this season.
Michael Clarke continued his golden summer with two half centuries in the 1st Test, although he was forced to retire hurt with a hamstring injury in the second innings. Queensland Bulls batsman Usman Khawaja has been called into the squad as cover for the skipper, while Phil Hughes will play the first Test of his 18 Test career in the Victorian capital after making his international comeback in the series opener.
Sri Lanka can take heart from its 1st Test performance heading to Melbourne. Tillakaratne Dilshan scored an exquisite 147 in the first innings there, while Kumar Sangakkara showed fight batting for four and a half hours in a bid to save the match in the second dig. The form of skipper Mahela Jayawardene away from home continues to be a concern however. The 136 match veteran hasn’t scored a Test 50 outside of Sri Lanka in more than three years and is averaging just 20.22 in that period. Rangana Herath collected a five-for in the second innings to shoot to the top of the Test wicket-takers list for 2012, while Chanaka Welegedera also impressed with six wickets in the match.
The past fourteen Test matches at the MCG have all produced a result and Sri Lanka will be buoyed by the fact that Australia has lost two of the past four at the ground. The last match to end in a draw there was against South Africa in 1997.
Click here to bet on the 2nd Test between Australia and Sri Lanka