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Australia vs South Africa 2nd Test preview: Hosts on the hunt for series-winning victory in Melbourne
Australia can take an unassailable two-game lead in the three-match series when they face South Africa at the MCG on Boxing Day.
Australia will look to stick another beating on visiting South Africa when the annual Boxing Day Test gets underway at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
The hosts triumphed over the Proteas during frantic two-day six-wicket victory at the Gabba last week which caused a stir across the cricketing world.
A rogue pitch was blamed for the whirlwind encounter with the International Cricket Council grading the wicket at the iconic ground as “below average”, adding it was “not an even contest between bat and ball”.
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Aussie batter Steve Smith later confessed the pitch was one of the least friendly he’d ever played on, adding: "As a batter I'd like it to do a little bit less.
"I think it's a fine balance just trying to get that even contest between bat and ball. It [the Gabba] was probably the most difficult wicket I've played on here in Australia."
South Africa captain and opening batsman Dean Elgar went even further, labelling the wicked unsafe and admitting he had even discussed the state of the pitch with the on-field umpires.
"I think there were a few instances that the ball did some stuff that was just out of nowhere," Smith continued.
"Some balls were sitting in the wicket, making divots, some were zinging through and it was just incredibly hard to bat again. Whether it was unsafe or not, it's not really my place to judge, but it certainly wasn't easy to bat."
However, both sides now need to put the chaos in Queensland behind them as they enter a pivotal, series-defining showdown in Victoria.
Last year’s Boxing Day test saw the Aussies blow their opposition away in another shortened match after they put England to the sword during an innings and 14 runs victory.
That was a win largely inspired by the bowling of debutant Scott Boland, who took astonishing figures of 6-7 at the MCG to run riot through a fragile England batting line-up.
The 33-year-old has since established himself as an important player in a deep Aussie bowling rotation and will be pushing to start for a second straight year at his home ground in Melbourne – particularly against a top order who look way short of confidence and form.
However, Boland’s selection could hinge on the fitness of strike bowler Josh Hazlewood who is dealing with a minor side strain that could rule him out of contention.
Meanwhile South African batting coach Justin Sammons has called for an improvement from his side after admitting the Proteas failed to deliver on their ability in the First Test despite the challenging conditions.
“At the end of the day, you know, we can‘t use the conditions as an excuse,” he said.
“The bottom line is we didn’t play to our potential, if we did, we would have had a better chance of winning the game.
“So yeah, both teams play on the surface and it’s who adapts best. Obviously, they showed that in the first test, and we’ve got to make sure that we correct that.”
South Africa may look to bolster their batting line-up for the Second Test with reserve batters Theunis de Bruyn and Heinrich Klaasen vying for contention if necessary.
Tune in to the Second Test between Australia and South Africa at 11.30pm on Christmas Day, exclusively live on BT Sport 1 HD.