Tim Paine revealed Australia were yet to decide whether to play a fifth bowler in the Boxing Day Test against New Zealand in Melbourne.

With Josh Hazlewood (hamstring) sidelined, James Pattinson is set to come in, but Michael Neser could also be included for a Test debut.

Paine said Australia would wait until Thursday to confirm their line-up as they keep an eye on the MCG wicket, which has been lifeless in recent years and is set to again draw plenty of attention.

The Australia captain said they had "two different teams" ahead of the Test, while playing down any suggestions playing a fifth bowler would be a risk.

"Not looking at the wicket that we played on in the last two or three Boxing Day Test matches, that wicket has been very hard to take 20 wickets," Paine told a news conference on Wednesday.

"If it's something similar to that then it's certainly a possibility that that's the way we go.

"Our batting team in the last few months has been scoring a lot of runs so if we were to go one more bowler we'd be comfortable they would do the job and obviously the bowlers we would be bringing in can all bat.

"Whilst we're taking a batter out we're probably lengthening our line-up a little bit so we'll see what happens tomorrow and go from there."

An additional bowler would mean Paine, who averages 30.40 in Tests, would move up from seven to six in the batting order.

But the 35-year-old is unfazed, saying: "If I have to bat in the top six that's what I'll do.

"I'm not too fussed whether it's six or seven, there's not a huge difference so we're all here to do what we think is best for the team.

"If guys bat up or down the order a little bit more than usual then that's what we'll do, same with our new-ball guys, we swap the new ball around and guys have taken that on board and played their role."

Australia head coach Justin Langer insisted star opener David Warner will be "ready to go" for the Boxing Day Test against New Zealand in Melbourne.

Warner sent a scare through the Australia camp on Monday after he was struck on his left hand during a net session at the MCG.

The 33-year-old batsman – who posted scores of 43 and 19 in the 296-run rout of the Black Caps in Perth – returned to the nets later in the day, while he also featured on Tuesday morning.

Despite concerns, Langer declared Warner a certain starter for the second Test as Australia look to seal a series victory.

"He's fine," Langer told reporters on Tuesday. "There was a little concern for about two seconds and then he saw the doctor and he's hitting balls again.

"We know how well he's playing at the moment, we know how much all the boys love playing Test cricket and Boxing Day cricket … so he'll be ready to go."

"It's not unusual for Davey to do that," Langer said of Warner taking his left hand off the bat at times. "He's in really good nick, he's a very experienced player now, he knows how to prepare. As I said, I've got absolutely no worries that he'll be raring to go."

Langer, who also confirmed James Pattinson will replace injured quick Josh Hazlewood for his first Test on Australian soil since 2016, revealed Australia are pondering a selection shake-up.

The MCG has produced a lifeless pitch over the years, though a Sheffield Shield match earlier this month had to be abandoned due to a dangerous surface and unpredictable bounce.

If the pitch continues its theme, Langer said Australia could drop a batsman and field five frontline bowlers against New Zealand.

"The Australian cricket team doesn't usually go down that path of having an extra bowler," said Langer. "But if we're going to play on a wicket like we have in the last two years or so here at the MCG, we've certainly got to find a way to take 20 wickets.

"If we turn up on Boxing Day and it looks really flat, we've got the flexibility to be able to do it. In most circumstances ... we don't play an extra bowler because you don't need to do it.

Tom Blundell will replace the struggling Jeet Raval for New Zealand in the Boxing Day Test against Australia.

Raval has scored just 66 runs in his past nine Test innings, making two scores of one in the series opener in Perth.

Blundell played in two Tests against West Indies in late 2017, including making a century on debut while batting in the lower-order.

The 29-year-old wicketkeeper-batsman said he may have to change his approach when the second Test starts in Melbourne on Thursday.

"I think it's just a mindset shift, it's being a little bit patient outside off-stump and getting through 30-odd balls," Blundell told Radio Sport on Sunday.

"Once you do that, expanding my game from there."

He added: "You try to still bat the same, it's just the first 30 balls you're going to have to be a little bit more patient outside that off-stump.

"If I can last those 30 balls, hopefully can bat a little bit more positively."

Blundell opened for New Zealand during a tour game against a Victorian XI on Sunday, retiring on 59.

The Black Caps were comprehensively beaten by Australia by 296 runs in the first Test.

James Pattinson is set to make his return for Australia's Boxing Day showdown against New Zealand, according to head coach Justin Langer.

Pattinson missed the Test series against Pakistan after he was suspended for the opening match in November due to a level two breach of Cricket Australia's code of conduct for abuse of an opposition player in the Sheffield Shield.

But the Victoria paceman is poised to replace injured quick Josh Hazlewood for the second Test against New Zealand at the MCG in Melbourne, despite Peter Siddle being drafted into the squad.

"I am really looking forward to seeing Patto bowl and bowl well in this Boxing Day Test, which is his home ground as well," Langer told 6PR on Saturday.

"James Pattinson was 12th man in the last game and I hope what I have shown in the last 18 months is that we have been really consistent in our selection.

"He's been unlucky, he only played a couple of Tests in the Ashes and he is so hungry like Mitchell Starc.

"The way he has come back from playing [two] Tests in the Ashes has just been brilliant."

Australia can wrap up the three-Test series following their 296-run rout of the Black Caps in Perth.

All eyes will be on the MCG pitch when Australia and trans-Tasman rivals New Zealand do battle, starting Thursday.

MCG curator Matt Page has come under fire after a Sheffield Shield match was abandoned due to an unsafe surface earlier this month.

"I know they are going to be under some pressure, there is no doubt about that," Langer said. "But I also know that Matt Page is an incredibly hard worker.

"They got it wrong in the last Shield game, but they were getting it right for the two Shield games before.

"He'll have some nervous nights Pagey, but I am confident he will get a good wicket up."

Glenn Maxwell struck a spectacular 83 from 39 deliveries on his return to competitive cricket as Melbourne Stars got their Big Bash League campaign off to a winning start with a 22-run victory over Brisbane Heat.

Australia batsman Maxwell, who in October decided to take a break from cricket for mental health reasons, was in inspired form as he lifted his side to a total of 167-7 in Carrara.

England youngster Tom Banton threatened to lead the Heat to their target, but Brisbane lost their way after the opener was dismissed by Adam Zampa (3-30) for a 36-ball 64.

Although Matt Renshaw reached 39, Brisbane were limited to 145-8, with Zampa, Daniel Worrall (2-21) and debutant Haris Rauf (2-20) doing the bulk of the damage.

The Heat have now lost their opening two games while the Stars will look to build on a win that owed much to Maxwell's stunning return.

MILLION-DOLLAR MAXWELL RETURNS IN STYLE

Maxwell had not played since scoring 62 for Australia in a Twenty20 against Sri Lanka in Adelaide in October, but the all-rounder looked like he had never been away.

A day on from the Indian Premier League auction, he showed just why Kings XI Punjab elected to pay $1.5million for his services.

After reaching 50 from just 23 balls, Maxwell continued to toy with Brisbane's attack, sending Josh Lalor for two sixes in an over and taking his boundary tally to 12 before he was bowled by Ben Laughlin in the final over of the Stars innings.

"[It's a] nice way to start a tournament. The boys bowled beautifully 'til the end when Tom Banton was batting well and they pulled things back," Maxwell told reporters.

"We've got some strength in our bowling, guys like Sandeep [Lamichhane], and Haris Rauf was outstanding. I feel we've really covered all bases this year. I've been feeling good all summer and just the mental side of the game I need to get right."

RAUF HITS THE MARK ON HIS DEBUT

Seamer Rauf was handed his first start in the BBL, and the 26-year-old took his opportunity to impress.

After an expensive second over from Lamichhane, Rauf was drafted into Melbourne's attack early, and made the ideal start by dismissing Max Bryant with his first delivery.

Banton had the better of Rauf, but after a spell out of the attack, he kept things tight late in the innings following the excellent work of Zampa and rounded off the win by taking Mitchell Swepson's wicket in the final over.

Head coach Gary Stead believes New Zealand can benefit from being able to put their feet up after day one of the warm-up match against Victoria XI was cancelled due to extreme heat.

The Black Caps were due to start the two-day match at Scotch College on Friday, but temperatures are expected to reach 45 degrees Celsius in Melbourne.

They will instead contest a full-day match on Sunday after training in what is forecast to be cooler conditions on Saturday as they prepare for the Boxing Day Test against Australia at the MCG.

The tourists had to contend with high temperatures during a 296-run defeat in the first Test and Stead says it would have made no sense to toil in the heat again if it could be avoided.

"If it's going to be that hot, I'm not sure we're going to get too much out of it, and there's just the danger element as well," Stead said.

"It's hard to underestimate the effect that Perth had on us. We were in 40C temperatures every day.

"The travel back from Perth to Melbourne is pretty gruelling as well, and guys are still struggling to get their sleep patterns right.

"Having the extra day shouldn't do any harm to us."

Trent Boult is hopeful of lining up for New Zealand against Australia in the Boxing Day Test.

The left-arm paceman missed the series opener, which Australia won by 296 runs in Perth, due to a side strain.

Boult, 30, is eager to be ready for the second Test in Melbourne beginning on December 26.

"I'm feeling pretty good, probably a little bit frustrated to be on the sidelines and watching the games tick by," he told a news conference on Wednesday.

"But I feel like I've been rehabbing well, the ball is coming out alright and obviously I'm hoping to be pushing for Boxing Day and to get back out there."

Boult has missed two Tests due to the injury and the Black Caps felt his absence in Perth as they were comprehensively beaten.

But he wants to return in Melbourne, welcoming the enormity of the occasion of the Boxing Day Test.

"I want to really embrace it and appreciate that stage for what it is," Boult said.

"Test cricket is my favourite format, this is the stage that a lot of people dream of being on so to get this opportunity in my career, it's definitely something I'm looking forward to.

"So, if I can tick all the right boxes with my body and get myself fit then I can't wait to get out there."

Wallabies regular Reece Hodge has committed his future to the Rebels and Rugby Australia after signing a history-making contract extension.

The versatile back has agreed a new deal that runs until the end of the 2023 Rugby World Cup, the longest extension in the Rebels' history.

Hodge, 25, has spent four seasons with the Super Rugby side and was part of the Australia squad that competed at the World Cup in Japan earlier this year.

He started the quarter-final defeat to England after serving a three-game suspension for a high tackle in the Pool D opener against Fiji.

"I'm extremely happy to secure my future here in Melbourne, with the Rebels and Rugby Australia for the long term," Hodge said.

"Since arriving in late 2015, the club has been my home and the people around the Rebels have become family."

Hodge has won 39 caps for Australia since debuting against New Zealand in Wellington in 2016.

"I've only ever been coached by [Michael] Cheika at international level, so it will definitely have a different feel with Dave Rennie and his new coaching staff coming on board and I'm really excited about the future," he said.

In-form Australia star Marnus Labuschagne is in line to make his ODI debut as part of seven changes for next month's tour of India.

An established Test member, uncapped ODI batsman Labuschagne is part of a 14-man squad set to face India in a three-match series, starting January 14.

Led by assistant coach Andrew McDonald as Justin Langer rests, the Australia team also includes Josh Hazlewood, despite the paceman sitting out the Boxing Day Test against New Zealand due to a hamstring injury.

However, there is no room for seven players that featured in the Cricket World Cup semi-final loss to England – Usman Khawaja, Shaun Marsh, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Glenn Maxwell, Marcus Stoinis and Nathan Lyon, while Jason Behrendorff is injured.

"As one of the leadership group it's important to show that not only are we focused on getting the balance right for the players but equally the coaches and staff, head coach included," Langer said.

"'Macca' is an exceptional coach in all forms of the game and has been fantastic since coming on board. He will do a great job with this squad. We are in very, very good hands."

National selector Trevor Hohns added: "The performance of our white ball squads has been strong, and we are hoping to build the momentum towards the T20 World Cup at home at the end of the year and ultimately build towards the 2023 ICC World Cup in India.
 
"The performance of the top order at home through the T20 Series was very strong so we look for that to continue in the Indian ODI series. We also believe Marnus Labuschagne is ready for his international white ball debut after his strong form for Queensland in this form of the game."

Australia will face India in Mumbai before matches in Rajkot (January 17) and Bengaluru (January 19).

 

Australia squad for India tour: Aaron Finch (c), Sean Abbott, Ashton Agar, Alex Carey, Pat Cummins, Peter Handscomb, Josh Hazlewood, Marnus Labuschagne, Kane Richardson, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Ashton Turner, David Warner, Adam Zampa.

Australia have called in veteran bowler Peter Siddle to replace Josh Hazlewood for the Boxing Day Test against New Zealand.

Selectors have turned to local Victoria paceman Siddle for the Melbourne showdown after Hazlewood injured his hamstring in Perth.

Siddle is the only addition for the second Test at the MCG following Australia's 296-run rout of the Black Caps in the series opener at Perth Stadium.

The 35-year-old – a veteran of 67 Tests and 221 wickets – featured in the Ashes in England, though he has not played a home Test since November 2016.

"He is a proven Test match performer with an exceptional knowledge of the MCG which will be a valuable part of our preparation," said national selector Trevor Hohns.

 

Australia squad: David Warner, Joe Burns, Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith, Matthew Wade, Travis Head, Tim Paine (c), Pat Cummins, Mitch Starc, Nathan Lyon, James Pattinson, Michael Neser, Peter Siddle.

New Zealand have called up uncapped pace bowler Kyle Jamieson to replace the injured Lockie Ferguson ahead of the second Test against Australia.

Ferguson is to return home after suffering a calf strain on his Test debut in Perth, where the Black Caps suffered a 296-run defeat inside four days.

Jamieson - who represented New Zealand at the 2014 Under-19 Cricket World Cup - could now make his international bow at the MCG, the 24-year-old having caught the eye of team management while playing for Auckland.

"It's an exciting opportunity for Kyle, who has impressed in the Plunket Shield domestic four-day competition," New Zealand coach Gary Stead said.

"We've also been really encouraged by his progress in the New Zealand Cricket winter camps and his performances for New Zealand A.

"Standing at over two metres tall he obviously gets good bounce and brings something different to our other pace bowlers."

Having sent down 11 overs in the first Test, recording figures of 0-47, Ferguson is set to be out for between four and six weeks.

He was selected in the absence of Trent Boult, who missed the game due to a side strain. However, the left-armer could be back in time to feature in Melbourne, with the next game starting on December 26.

"We're all absolutely gutted for Lockie," Stead added. "He'd worked really hard to earn his Test debut and to have it cruelly halted by injury was truly unlucky.

"He'll return home to begin his recovery with an eye to India's tour of New Zealand starting in late January."

 

Lockie Ferguson has been ruled out of the remainder of New Zealand's Test series against Australia due to a calf injury.

Ferguson suffered a calf strain on his Test debut in Perth, where Australia claimed a 296-run victory on Sunday to take a 1-0 series lead.

The 28-year-old will miss the Boxing Day Test and the third encounter in Sydney starting on January 3 as he recovers from the injury.

"Lockie Ferguson is returning home from Australia after sustaining a grade two right calf muscle tendon strain while bowling in the first Test in Perth," the Black Caps wrote on Twitter on Monday.

"The injury is expected to need four to six weeks rehabilitation. A replacement player will be named in the next 24 hours."

Ferguson bowled just 11 overs in the series opener, finishing with figures of 0-47.

New Zealand are hopeful star paceman Trent Boult will return from injury for the second Test in Melbourne.

Trent Boult is "likely" to make a timely return for the Boxing Day Test after New Zealand were hammered by Australia at Perth Stadium.

Boult missed the start of the three-match series due to a side strain and could only watch on as Australia sealed a crushing 296-run victory on day four.

The left-arm paceman is set to feature in the second Test at the MCG as a replacement for Lockie Ferguson, who suffered a calf injury on day one of his Test debut in the day-night contest this week.

Black Caps captain Kane Williamson said: "His [Boult] fitness is looking likely. He was a close one for this so, hopefully, he will be fully fit for the next match."

There may be at least one further change to the side in Melbourne after struggling opening batsman Jeet Raval fell for only one in both innings.

"I suppose Jeet is like every other batsman in the world and that's that they want more and more runs and you always have good days and bad days," Williamson added.

"These are some hard lessons for him and great experiences as well. In terms of looking forward, just having finished this game, it's important we reflect on it and any selections will be based upon the surfaces and the squad that we have at the time."

Williamson refused to blame a lack of time to prepare for the pink-ball match as an excuse for a crushing loss in a match that came so soon after sealing 1-0 series win over England.

The skipper said: "It's hard to just blame preparation. It's always impossible to know what the perfect preparation is, but there are some parts to the pink-ball Test that are unique.

"We've just come off the back of a couple of Test matches against England and there's simply not enough time to achieve all of those things.

"It was important that we just tried to address a number of the parts that we had to adapt to, quickly as possible in training. By no means did we play our best cricket, but at the same time, Australia were outstanding throughout this game.

"Their cricket, but also their pink-ball tactics, were right on point and they basically led from start to finish in this game."

Tim Paine knows Australia cannot afford to simply rely on Steve Smith to hold together innings after they prevailed in the first Test against New Zealand despite another disappointing batting performance from their Ashes hero.

Australia prevailed by 296 runs in Perth after a dominant display in a game Smith contributed little to with the bat.

Smith scored 43 in the first innings and could add only 16 in the second, though Australia still built a lead of 467 despite his relative struggles.

New Zealand were bowled out for 171 in pursuit of 468, the win marking Australia's third successive triumph after a whitewash of Pakistan in which Smith managed just 40 runs across two innings.

Performances of the ridiculous standards he produced in the drawn Ashes series with England, in which he scored a mammoth 774 runs in four Tests, have not been required recently as the likes of David Warner and Marnus Labuschagne have flourished.

Asked about his side's batting, captain Paine told reporters: "At the end of the Ashes, we needed other guys to stand up... [we] can't be just reliant on Steve.

"That's what we are going to have to do to be one of the better teams in the world.

"I think certainly over the last 18 months there has been drastic improvement in this cricket team.

"We're moving in the right direction and happy the way we've played the last three tests. We're still improving and getting better."

The opening match of the three-game series was marked by both attacks sending down a barrage of short balls.

"We were just having a laugh when we were bowling at their tail that it's going to be a bit of bodyline for a lot of the series," Paine said.

"They're very skilled at executing that [short] ball and they set great fields for it. So it's a completely different challenge to what you get from other teams."

Mitchell Starc and Nathan Lyon wrapped up a dominant victory for Australia as they took a 1-0 lead in the three-match Test series with New Zealand, who crumbled to defeat by 296 runs.

The hosts controlled every facet of a hugely one-sided affair in Perth and went into day four of the day-night Test with a lead of 417.

Australia stretched that advantage to 467 before declaring, allowing Starc and Lyon to help orchestrate another batting collapse from the Black Caps.

Starc took five wickets as New Zealand were dismissed for 166 in the first innings, and he took his figures for the match to 9-97 with an instrumental performance, while Lyon claimed the key wicket of Kane Williamson in his 4-63.

Attention now turns to the Boxing Day Test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, where New Zealand will need to rediscover the form with the bat they displayed in the recent series win over England to keep their hopes alive.

With no pressure on the Australia batsmen, wickets fell in short order and a declaration from Tim Paine arrived in the morning session on 217-9.

That swift decision paid dividends as New Zealand were two down by lunch, Jeet Raval's recent struggles continuing as he jabbed Starc to Lyon at point before Williamson was undone by the turn of Lyon and gloved to Matthew Wade.

Ross Taylor (22) and Tom Latham (18) provided a brief period of stability that was ended when they each went in the space of five balls. Taylor was caught behind off Starc trying to pull and Latham was given out lbw on review as Lyon struck him plumb on the pads.

Making up superbly for the absence of the injured Josh Hazlewood, Starc and Lyon continued to trade wickets. The spinner accounted for Henry Nicholls (21) to end his useful partnership of 41 with BJ Watling (40), who gloved man of the match Starc down leg, those dismissals separated by Pat Cummins getting in on the act to remove Colin de Grandhomme (33).

De Grandhomme and Watling had produced the most sustained show of defiance in their stand of 56, but the Black Caps' resistance was fleeting thereafter, as Starc and Cummins attacked the tail with a hostile approach built around the short ball.

Mitchell Santner, a centurion against England last month, went for a duck to Cummins, before Starc and Lyon removed Neil Wagner and Tim Southee respectively to round off a rout and leave New Zealand wondering how they can turn things around and claim a first series win in Australia since 1985.

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.