Wade will be after a strong display either to hang on to his opener’s spot or return to the middle-order berth currently occupied by Green
Boxing Day’s MCG colosseum, limited capacity or not, looms as a vital stage for Matthew Wade and Cameron Green as they look for breakthrough performances as part of Australia’s bid to take a 2-0 lead over the next five days.
Wade was a makeshift opener and Green an allrounder debutant in Adelaide, and both showed glimpses of their best without being entirely needed to produce it as the hosts rampaged through India on the third afternoon to vault from two days of pitched battle to a runaway victory well inside three.
Given the likelihood that David Warner will be fit again in time for the third Test, which may or may not be played in Sydney, Wade will be after a strong display either to hang on to his opener’s spot or return to the middle-order berth from which he clouted two centuries during last year’s Ashes series in England. Wade’s opening partner, Joe Burns, will also be eager for runs, but at least has had the benefit of both tenure at the top of the order and a half-century in the dying moments of the Adelaide Test.
“That’s the great thing about Wadey, I think he could do either,” Australia’s captain Tim Paine said of Wade. “He did a great job in the first Test match. I think JL’s [Justin Langer’s] right, these things have a way of working themselves out, there’s no point in putting time into what might happen and what ifs. At the moment he’s opening the batting for us in this Test match, and we’ll look at that again come the third Test.
“I don’t like to put too much time into what might happen, because as we’ve seen particularly this year, anything can happen through injury or concussion or unavailability due to border closures, so we’ll make that decision when we have to. Wadey will do a great job for us whether he bats Nos. 1 to 7, we know that.
“He’s a flexible cricketer, he’s shown that in all formats of the game and he’s another guy who is improving the older he gets. He’s come back into the Australian side, batted in a number of different positions in white and red ball cricket and continually does the job for us, that’s why he’s so valuable for our team.”
As for Green, his level of assurance at the batting crease, before toeing a pull shot at Ravi Ashwin to a diving Virat Kohli at midwicket, suggested there will be plenty of runs for him in Test cricket, but on the MCG’s drop-in pitch it will be his bowling that Paine may need to call upon more often in times of need.
None of Australia’s bowlers have forgotten their hard toil against India in Melbourne two years ago, when Mitchell Marsh bowled 26 wicket-less overs in a first innings that stretched into its 170th. Green, with his height and trajectory, may pose more problems, and is permitted to bowl more overs with every match further away from the back stress fractures that threatened to derail his promising career.
“There are some limits. The good thing with Greeny is every game he gets through bowling, we can add a few more to that,” Paine said. “We were lucky in Adelaide that the big three did the job in the second innings and basically we can bank those overs into the next game.
“He’s getting more and more overs each game, each day that he plays and gets through, which is awesome. So we expect him to bowl a bit more in this Test match if required. He would’ve bowled a lot more than he did in the first Test as well but wasn’t required.”
Paine noted the somewhat subdued pre-match atmosphere of Melbourne this year, with bio-security protocols leaving around half of the team and support staff without their families present for the traditional Christmas lunch. But he was also hopeful that the required staff and broadcasters would be able to get into their own hubs in order to ensure the series can conclude as scheduled in Sydney and Brisbane, a matter Cricket Australia will make a final decision about during the Melbourne Test.
“If that’s what it takes to get the Sydney Test up and going, then whilst it’s not ideal, I think it’s a small sacrifice for everyone to make,” Paine said. “I know the boys would certainly be excited to have another few people into the hub to talk to, I think we’re getting sick of each other.
“If we get a few more people that we can chat to I think it would be good fun. That’s a decision they’ll have to make. As I’ve said before, the hub life is not that bad, it’s not like we’re in jail or anything like that, it’s still a pretty good way of living. I don’t think any of us complain.
“There’s no doubt the New Year’s Test in Sydney is a huge part of the Australian summer. And for our team, we’ve got so many guys from Sydney and NSW, so they love playing in front of their home crowds and having their families around, so hopefully that can get off the ground. I think at the moment that is the plan. I’ve been pushing hard behind the scenes for [Hobart] if it’s not but I don’t think that’s going to happen, so the next best place is the SCG.”
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig