Cricketers worldwide share a common holiday wish: to play in a Test match at the ‘G in front of a raucous crowd. Although the Australian team participates in this tradition on a yearly basis, this will be the first time for every member of the South African team.
They weren’t on the 2008 team that shocked Australia and won South Africa its first series after readmission. According to their pregame comments, though, nearly all of them were up late watching JP Duminy and Dale Steyn bring down a side that had not been beaten in 28 home series since 1992.
Over the years that followed, Cricket South Africa made an effort to keep their team at home over the holiday season. This was a logical strategy given that December through February is peak summer in South Africa as well. CSA has tried to move the Boxing Day Test to St. George’s Park, Kingsmead, and SuperSport Park, but none of them have been able to match the atmosphere and atmosphere of the MCG on that day.
South Africa must avoid this final line of thinking if they want to win the series and make it four straight series victories in Australia. This Test is a must-win. They need major upgrades to their batting lineup, which has been bowled out for under 200 in each of their last six Test innings, if they want to have any hope of winning. They have spent the buildup honing their skills and keeping in mind that they will be in the driver’s seat if they can offer the “best in the world,” as Dean Elgar describes them, something to defend.
Australia’s bowlers, who have already crushed South Africa twice in Brisbane, will not take kindly to being labelled second (or even third) best and will be confident in their ability to test them again. Their batting is much more formidable on paper and in experience than South Africa’s, and they will want to add a second victory this summer, well before they get to Sydney, despite their reliance on a single innings—Travis Head’s—to win the first match. Australia have only lost one Test in this WTC cycle, and that was back in December 2021.
At the time of his debut in 2011 on the back of his reputation as a white-ball basher, David Warner’s 100th cap may have appeared implausible; after his recent series against South Africa in 2018, it may have seemed even less possible. Despite being one of Australia’s most fearless players, he lacks much form as he approaches this landmark. Warner has played 15 Tests since his previous century in January 2020, amassing 678 runs (including two hundreds and a fifty) at an average of 26.07. With a 20.61 batting average in 2022, it’s fair to wonder how much longer he can stay up with the longest format. It’s possible that the MCG is where we’ll find the solution.
Sarel Erwee must be eager to put up another score of significance after seeing fellow openers Tony de Zorzi and Jordan Hermann pile on the runs in the domestic four-day competition back home, despite South Africa’s batting troubles making it seem unfair to single out a single player. Erwee has scored no more than 26 runs in any of his last six innings, and his highest Test score is 150. Considering the conditions South Africa has played in, that’s not a terrible return, but he’ll be aware that they’ve lost openers for less.
Scott Boland, a hero to the locals, kept his spot on the XI after Pat Cummins confirmed it on Christmas Day. Due to Josh Hazlewood’s own assessment that he wasn’t yet ready to return from his side injury, a difficult choice was avoided.
The Australian batting order is as follows: 1, David Warner; 2, Usman Khawaja; 3, Marnus Labuschagne; 4, Steven Smith; 5, Travis Head; 6, Cameron Green; 7, Alex Carey (wk); 8, Pat Cummins (captain); 9, Mitchell Starc; 10, Nathan Lyon; 11, Scott Boland.
On Christmas Eve, South Africa finalised their XI and would only reveal that lineup alterations, rather than wholesale roster overhauls, were possible. They have not been persuaded to extend their struggling batting lineup and will instead stick with the 6-5 split that gives all four specialist quicks and the spinner a chance to play. Theunis de Bruyn might replace Rassie van der Dussen in the starting lineup, as the latter recently returned from a fractured finger suffered in Brisbane.
Dean Elgar (captain) and Sarel Erwee (second) represent South Africa. Three Rassie van der Dussens and Theunis de Bruyns Temba Bavuma, Number Five Khaya Zondo, I’ll give you a 6. (wk), No. 7 Marco Jansen, Keshav Maharaj, Rank #8 The lineup: 9 Kagiso Rabada, 10 Anrich Nortje, 11 Lungi Ngidi
Tempest and weather
Due to its extra bounce, considerable seam movement, and variable bounce, the Gabba had a below-average rating, and previous year’s Test at the MCG had a poor score. Just how likely is it that we’ll see yet another bowler-friendly pitch? The answer is probably less. Both teams are hoping for a successful batting and bowling match, and the MCG pitch is expected to perform little less than it did in 2021. Rapid South African batsman Anrich Nortje predicted two days before the Test that the pitch will have decent pace and bounce but not as much sideways movement as in Brisbane.
Humid and steamy weather is forecast for the start of the Test. The first two days in Melbourne are predicted to be around 32 degrees with a chance of showers on the opening morning. The third day is predicted to be wetter, followed by colder temperatures on the last two days.