Melbourne: Queensland quick Michael Neser looks set to make his Test debut against New Zealand on Thursday with Australia considering an unconventional five-man attack for the Boxing Day Test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG).
The hosts, who can clinch the three-match series with a second successive victory, are wary of the surface at MCG where bowlers had to really toil for any success in recent times.
They will unveil their playing XI on Thursday morning but captain Tim Paine suggested playing a fifth specialist bowler, a ploy they last employed in 2013 in Sydney against Sri Lanka.
“Looking at the wicket in the last two or three Boxing Day Test matches, it’s been very hard to take 20 wickets,” Paine told reporters on Wednesday.
“Our batting team has been scoring a lot of runs. So if we were to go with one more bowler, we would be comfortable and they could do the job," he added.
Travis Head could be sacrificed to accommodate Neser while James Pattinson, replacing the injured Josh Hazlewood, will join the pace attack which also features Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc. Nathan Lyon is their lone specialist spinner.
Earlier this month, a Sheffield Shield match at the MCG was abandoned after several batsmen sustained blows to the body on a dangerous pitch.
New Zealand have confirmed two changes with Tom Blundell shoehorned into the makeshift opener’s role replacing the off-colour Jeet Raval, and quick Trent Boult returning from a rib muscle injury.
“It’s a brilliant opportunity. I guess there’s a sense of romance about being involved in the Boxing Day Test,” Kane Williamson said.
“The guys have all grown up watching whoever’s been involved so it’s quite cool to be part of it,” the skipper added.
With 10 days to recover from the shellacking in the day-night Test in Perth, New Zealand are confident of doing better with the red ball.
“Perth was tough and Australia are very good and tactically sound. It’s important we learn from some bits of Perth but turn our focus to Melbourne, the changing conditions and perhaps not be too reactive to that performance,” Williamson said.
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Paine's dropped catches played a key role in the partnership of Hanuma Vihari (23 not out off 161) and Ravichandran Ashwin (39 not out off 128), who batted for more than 42 overs for a 62-run stand to save the Test.
A video footage showed Smith scuffing up the batsman's guard during drinks break in the first session on Monday. Pant scored a fluent 97 to raise India's hopes for a win.
Warner is still not hundred percent fit but Paine's eulogies bore testimony to the team's desperation to get their opener back in the wake of their batting unit's flop show in three of the four innings so far.