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Australia v South Africa - Second Test preview: Aussie pacemen aim to expose brittle batting unit at MCG

Australia beat South Africa inside two days in the first Test of the series and the Proteas will be hoping to offer more resistance in game two.

This series showcases one of the great rivalries in Test cricket and the Aussies are on a high coming into the traditional Boxing Day Test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground after bowling out the tourists for 152 and 99 on a spicy pitch at the Gabba last week.

What: Australia v South Africa, Second Test
Where: Melbourne Cricket Ground, Melbourne, Australia
When: 23:30, Sunday 25th December 2022
How to watch: Live on BT Sport 1
Odds: Australia 4/11, South Africa 4/1, Draw 15/2

Quicks full of confidence after bowler-friendly Brisbane clash

England supporters are adjusting to their side's supercharged brand of Test cricket under Brendon McCullum and Ben Stokes and the series opener between Australia and South Africa was also played at a ferocious pace.

Much of that was due to a green pitch in Brisbane which, according to ICC match referee Richie Richardson, meant it was "not an even contest between bat and ball" and there was no mercy shown to batsmen by two top-class fast-bowling attacks.

South Africa slipped to 27-4 in the first session and were bundled out for 152 while Australia needed a crucial 92 off 96 balls from the in-form Travis Head to avoid a similar fate.

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The hosts scrambled their way to 218 and any chance of a fightback from the Proteas was snuffed out by Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc, who reduced them to 5-3 on their way to a second-innings total of 99.

Despite chasing just 34 for victory, Australia lost four wickets (all to Kagiso Rabada) and batsmen will be hoping for some respite at the MCG.

Australia are 4/11 To Win the Match with South Africa 4/1 and the draw 15/2 at a venue which produced an uncharacteristically bowler-friendly surface in last year's Ashes Test.

Scott Boland took 6-7 in the second innings as England were bowled out for just 68 one year ago and the Australia paceman, who has claimed 25 wickets at an average of just 10.36 in his first five Tests, is 14/1 to be Player of the Match again.

However, such is the strength of their pace department that Boland is not guaranteed to play as Josh Hazlewood is pushing for a recall after recovering from a side strain.

Whatever the nature of the MCG pitch, Australia will be wary of South Africa star Rabada, who is 8/11 to claim Over 3.5 Bowler Total Match Wickets in the Boxing Day Test.

Rabada's eight-wicket haul in Brisbane took his Test tally for the year to 45 in just eight matches, just one scalp behind leading wicket-taker Jack Leach, who has played six more games than Rabada this year.

Head hoping for more batting heroics in Boxing Day Test

While fast bowlers Rabada, Boland, Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Marco Jansen were all able to enhance their Test records at the Gabba, few of the batters will have fond memories of their visit to Brisbane.

Australia legend Steve Smith described it as the "most difficult wicket" he had played on in a home Test match so Travis Head deserves enormous credit for his first-innings 92 in a total of 218.

Unlike almost all of his fellow batters, Head found a way not only to survive but to score runs at the Gabba and it helps that he came into the game in the form of his life.

The left-hander scored 99, 175 and 38 not out in three Test innings against the West Indies at the start of December. Last month Head scored 152 off 130 deliveries in an ODI thrashing of England at the MCG and he is 9/2 to be Australia's Top 1st Inns Batter.

Openers feeling the pressure against new-ball aces

David Warner also scored a century in November's Melbourne ODI win over England but the Australia opener faces a tough challenge against South Africa's red-ball quicks.

With tricky tours of India and England on the horizon, there have been questions about the 36-year-old's Test future. Warner made 38 in his only innings of last year's Boxing Day Test against England and since then he reached 50 just twice in 19 knocks with a top score of 68.

He is 6/4 in the Batter to Score a Fifty in 1st Innings market while South Africa captain Dean Elgar, another left-handed opener who could do with a decent score, is 9/4.

Elgar, a veteran of 80 Tests, shoulders a great deal of responsibility in an inexperienced Proteas batting unit but he was dismissed for three and two in the first Test, falling to Starc in the first innings and opposing captain Cummins second time around.

Elgar has been out for five or fewer in six of his nine Test innings in Australia and he is 5/6 to score Under 59.5 Batter Match Runs against a fired-up home team in Melbourne.

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