|Australia||$1.33 at Bet365|
|Draw||$8.20 at Sportsbet|
|New Zealand||$6 at Ladbrokes|
Both Australia and New Zealand have been forced to make changes for the Boxing Day Test match, which kicks off at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Thursday, December 26.
The hosts lost Josh Hazlewood to a hamstring strain in Perth, although that didn’t stop them claiming a 296-run victory. Peter Siddle has joined the squad as a replacement, but James Pattinson is favoured to get the nod.
The Kiwis also finished the opening match a man short, as Lockie Ferguson hurt his calf on the first day in WA and will miss the rest of the series. The uncapped Kyle Jamieson has come in to fill the breach, while Trent Boult is a chance to return from injury.
The major talking point ahead of this year’s Boxing Day blockbuster is the pitch. The last two Melbourne Test wickets were lifeless and earned unfavourable ratings from ICC inspectors, while the most recent Sheffield Shield match at the MCG was abandoned due to an unsafe surface.
Will we see another flat, dead track that offers nothing for the bowlers? Or will we see a lively, grassy wicket where batsmen have to earn their runs? The MCC and Cricket Australia have both urged MCG curator Matt Page to aim for the latter.
Australia and New Zealand have not played a Boxing Day Test match since 1987. That occasion ended in a famous draw, with Craig McDermott and Mike Whitney holding on as Sir Richard Hadlee came within a wicket of bowling the Black Caps to victory.
Australia vs New Zealand top runscorer tips
Steve Smith – $3.75 at Sportsbet
Smith’s record at the Melbourne Cricket Ground is something else. He averages 136 in Test matches at the MCG and has hit centuries in each of his last four visits, with only one score under 70 in that run. Don’t worry about his last few digs – this is one to set and forget.
Ross Taylor – $5 at Sportsbet
On recent form, Taylor gets the nod over star skipper Kane Williamson. Averaging a shade over 47 in a career spanning 97 Tests, the 35-year-old from Wellington is an underrated player who made a good 80 in Perth and looks in decent touch.
Australia vs New Zealand top bowler betting
Mitchell Starc – $3.25 at Ladbrokes
Starc has responded well to his omission from several key fixtures on this year’s Ashes tour. The tall left-armer is bowling with serious pace, but it is his newfound ability to build pressure and worry batsmen into false shots that has caught the eye.
Neil Wagner – $4 at Sportsbet
If the pitch is flat, Wagner’s ability to grind through a session will be invaluable. If there is some life in the deck, he will hit it hard and give the Aussie bats something to think about. With Trent Boult returning from injury and Tim Southee down on pace, Wagner is the man regardless of the conditions.
Boxing Day Test betting predictions
Australia to win – $1.33 at Bet365
Rarely has there even been more riding on the state of the MCG wicket. The $8.20 at Sportsbet for the draw is tempting, but serious questions will have to be asked if we see another dead track like the last two years. NZ look a couple of quality players short in a man-for-man comparison, especially in the spin department, so get on the Aussies.
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