After an easy win in Perth, which saw Australia take the lead in the three-match Test series, the two teams will battle for supremacy at the iconic Melbourne Cricket Ground.
Australia comfortably lead as far as the head-to-head record is concerned. The hosts have won 32 of the 58 Tests played between the two countries with only eight going to New Zealand.
In the last five Tests between these two sides too, Australia hold the aces having won four of these encounters while one ended in a draw.
Ground Details and Team Combination:
The MCG has hosted 111 Tests, only second to Lord’s, in England. While the nature of the surface here has changed over the years, the recent drop-in pitches have skewed the numbers in favour of the batsmen.
In Tests since December 2015, batsmen have scored runs at average of 40.7 runs per wicket here, which is the second-best for any ground in Australia during the aforementioned time period, while bowlers have managed a wicket only every 76.5 balls.
So packing your side with at least five solid frontline batsmen should be imperative.
While pacers and spinners have both suffered equally here, the former have a slight edge. In the four Tests since December 2015, they have returned 86 wickets striking every 71.1 balls while the spinners have picked up 25 wickets at a strike-rate of 98.5.
Delving deeper into the bowler types, right-arm pacers have been the most successful here. Since December 2015, they have picked up wickets every 68.3 balls at this venue. Second on this list are off-spinners who have returned a wicket every 86.2 deliveries.
A combination of five frontline batsmen including the wicket-keeper, two batting all-rounders, one spinner and three fast bowlers could be the way to go for this Test.
The surprising leading run-scorer of 2019, Marnus Labuschagne has made this year his own ever since he strode out as a concussion substitute for Steve Smith at Lord’s. In 15 innings this year, Labuschagne has amassed 1022 runs, which includes six half-centuries and three centuries. Remarkably all of the three tons have come in his last three Test innings and all scores of 140+. He will going into the Melbourne Test in a rich vein of form and will want to end his year on an absolute high.
It has been three Tests since Steve Smith has not managed a half-century. While it might be alright for some batsmen to go through a few Tests not managing a 50+ score, this is Smith we are talking about and he is due. The New Zealanders, Neil Wagner in particular, seemed to have Smith worked out in Perth and the talismanic batsman will want to set the record straight. While Smith has enjoyed a dream run in 2019, his record at MCG is even better. In 10 innings at this venue, Smith has smashed 816 runs that includes 2 half-centuries and four centuries. His average here reads a stupendous 136!
Kane Williiamson’s 2019 has ebbed and flowed. He has had a few good innings this year but has been inconsistent, quite unlike him. In 10 innings this year, Williamson has scored 505 runs at an average of 63.03 with two centuries and two half-centuries. However, there is little doubt that Williamson is New Zealand’s best batsman and will undoubtedly be Australia’s prime target. He will be desperate to end this year possibly with a century to his name.
The leading wicket-taker of the year, Pat Cummins has been all over of the headlines over the last few weeks and rightly so. The fast bowler has returned 54 wickets in 21 innings this year at a strike-rate of 45. Everytime Australia have needed a wicket, Cummins has delivered more often than not. Furthermore, his record at MCG is also mighty impressive. In three innings, Cummins has picked up 13 wickets at this venue striking every 34.2 balls. He is one bowler who can help you score crucial fantasy points.
Barring the final day of the Test, when showers are forecast, the weather in Melbourne is expected to be clear. The afternoon session could be taxing for the bowlers with the temperature expected to touch the 38-degree mark at times during the Test.
Steve Smith (vc), Marnus Labuschagne (C), Ross Taylor, Kane Williamson, BJ Watling, Colin de Grandhomme, Nathan Lyon, Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, James Pattinson