Australia will face a fired-up New Zealand side coming off the back of a convincing defeat in Perth and a 32-year-long wait for a shot at knocking over its Trans-Tasman rivals in a Boxing Day Test at the MCG.
Australia will feature Steve Smith, David Warner, Tim Paine, new IPL multi-millionaire Pat Cummins and the in-form Marnus Labuschagne, while New Zealand will rely on Kane Williamson, Tim Southee and Ross Taylor.
The game will be covered by Shane Warne, Adam Gilchrist, Isa Guha, Kerry O’Keeffe, Mike Hussey, Michael Vaughan, Mark Waugh, Mark Howard and New Zealand commentator Ian Smith who will provide their expert insight and analysis on Fox Cricket (Channel 501) and also in 4K on Fox Sports Ultra HD (Channel 508).
Ahead of the series Fox Cricket commentator and fast bowling legend Brett Lee commented saying that while he favors Australia on a potentially flat pitch he sees the Kiwis unpredictability along with the skill of Kane Williamson and the return of Trent Bolt as potential circuit breakers,
“They are our neighbours and they love to hate us and we love to hate them, it’s that whole rivalry thing but they should definitely get some options to play in that Boxing Day Test.
“It’s tough when you play on a wicket that’s not conducive to good cricket, certainly not fast bowling, it’s hard as a fast bowler when there is nothing in the pitch and it’s hard when it’s not going reverse either so you just need to go back to the basics – maybe bowl stump to stump pretty, play that style of boring Test cricket.
“They do have a good team the Kiwis and they are very unpredictable and to me, it comes down to Kane Williamson getting a big score at the MCG. If he does it they are definitely a chance but at the moment Australia is full of confidence, they are playing some really solid cricket, they have a solid five or six and their bowling line up is probably the best Australia has had for a number of decades.
“Trent Bolt holds the key for the Kiwis, certainly at the top of the order, when he bowls 135-140 kilometres an hour and swings the ball late with the old ball and with the new ball up front he shapes that new ball in, conventional swing, gets a lot of wickets, gets a lot of LBWs.”
Adding some international flair to the commentary box is former English captain Michael Vaughan who says that he doesn’t see anything other than an Australian win on an iconic day in the cricket calendar.
“The Boxing Day Test is at an iconic ground and is an iconic day for an England player to step out at the MCG in front of anything from 80-100,000 people on day one. It’s just one of those Test matches as a boy growing up, watching it on television screen you just dream of playing one opportunity at the MCG on Boxing Day.
“A lot of the chat leading into the Boxing Day Test this year will be Steve Smith, the short ball and also as the pitch, how is the pitch gonna play, it has been criticized over the last few years for not having enough action in it.
“I don’t see anything but an Australian win, I don’t see from what I saw in Perth to what New Zealand have in their ranks unless the ball swings and seams around I’m not too sure the short ball will have the same effect on a slow MCG wicket.
“Do I believe (New Zealand can win)? No, but the important thing is do New Zealand believe?”
The Boxing Day Test will also feature:
• Cricket Legends 12:00 pm: Host and respected cricket journalist Robert “Crash” Craddock sits down on the couch with the best players to have ever set foot on the cricket field and the biggest personalities that have made the game so special. From Midday every episode will be available before the new season launches from 7pm when Crash sits down with Brad Haddin, The 12th Man Billy Birmingham, Michael Vaughan, Curtly Ambrose, Ian Meckiff, Simon O’Donnell and Harsha Bhogle across seven 30-minute episodes.
• The Night Watchmen Friday, December 27 at 10.30pm: For the Biggest Test match of the year The Professor and Barney are joined by the biggest name in the game when Shane Warne joins the show live in-studio following Day 2 of play for a look at the lighter side of the game. Follows Melbourne Stars vs Adelaide Strikers BBL at 6.40pm.