Melbourne: As expected, Australia plans to take an unchanged lineup into the Boxing Day Test on Saturday as it attempts to go 2-0 in the four-Test cricket series against India.
With David Warner still unavailable due to a groin injury, Australia coach Justin Langer said Thursday he would brave to tinker with the side for the Melbourne Cricket Ground match after a resounding eight-wicket victory in Adelaide when India was held for its record-low Test score of 36 runs in its second innings.
Joe Burns will again partner Matthew Wade at the top of the order after Burns' unbeaten 51 in the second innings helped end the first Test last Saturday inside three days.
"I would be a pretty courageous man to change the XI for this Test match after the last one," Langer said. "Unless something happens over the next few days, and they can happen in the world we live in, we'll go in with the same XI."
Up to 30,000 spectators will be allowed to attend the match, which will be the first time fans have been allowed into the MCG since the Australian women's cricket team won the Twenty20 World Cup final in March, just before the coronavirus pandemic forced restrictions.
While the atmosphere will be different to a normal Melbourne Test, where up to 90,000 people fill the stadium, Langer is just happy to be at the MCG at all.
"30,000 is better than none. It wasn't that long ago, probably a few months ago, we wondered whether we would have a Boxing Day Test in Melbourne," he said. "Every time I come here, I pinch myself. It's just an amazing stadium. There's so much hype about it and the boys love playing here."
On Wednesday, Australian team officials confirmed Warner and fast bowler Sean Abbott would not play in the second Test due to a combination of injuries and COVID-19 quarantine restrictions.
Warner and Abbott spent time in Sydney outside the team's bio-secure hub to recover from injuries.
"While neither player has been in a specific 'hotspot' on Sydney's northern beaches as outlined by NSW Health, Cricket Australia's biosecurity protocols do not allow them to rejoin the squad in time for the Boxing Day Test," Cricket Australia said in a statement Wednesday.
Warner would not have been available for the second Test anyway. Abbott has recovered from a calf strain sustained during Australia A's tour match against India and would have been available for selection for the MCG Test.
The pair travelled from Sydney to Melbourne to continue their rehabilitation given the changing public health situation in Sydney at the time.
With captain Virat Kohli returning to India to be with his wife for the birth of their first child, India will also reportedly be without fast bowler Mohammed Shami due to a broken right arm.
Shami was forced to retire hurt in India's second innings when he was struck on the arm by a short-pitched delivery from Australia fast bowler Pat Cummins.
The paceman received treatment on the ground and although he tried to continue batting after having his right arm — his bowling arm — taped up, he couldn't grip the handle properly and trudged off the field to end India's innings on an even more distressing note.
Indian team officials in Australia haven't confirmed the break, but the Press Trust of India has reported that team officials told the agency that Shami would not be available for the next three Tests in Australia.
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The target is a tricky one and the Indian batsmen would get a fair idea of whether to go for it by lunch on the final day, which is Tuesday. This was after Siraj and Thakur combined to share nine wickets while dismissing Australia for 294 in their second innings.
The 22-year-old, who made his debut in the drawn third Test at Sydney, cracking an impressive 62 in the first innings, dislocated his shoulder while fielding in the match.
Tim Paine's captaincy has been questioned after he launched an ugly verbal tirade at Ravichandran Ashwin and Steve Smith was accused of foul play after appearing to scuff up batsman Rishabh Pant's guard at the crease during a tense final day at Sydney.