The Boxing Day Test wicket at the ‘G will be closely scrutinised after a volatile Gabba deck yielded a rare two-day Test earlier this month, with Australia beating South Africa by six wickets after sending the tourists in.The Gabba wicket was rated “below average” by the ICC and MCG curator Matt Page is desperate to avoid something similar. Last summer’s MCG Test pitch was rated only as “average” after Scott Boland’s brilliance drove Australia to a win against England before lunch on day three.Australian captain Cummins said this version wasn’t as grassy as last year’s.“It looks good. A little bit of grass on it. Probably not as green as previous years but it looks like a really good wicket,” Cummins said on Christmas Day.He said the Aussies would consider bowling first if they won the toss, spelling potential early trouble for a weak Proteas batting lineup.“We’ll have a look tomorrow,” Cummins said. “But not afraid to bowl first if we have to. I think the conversation is always ‘how much is day one going to do compared to the fourth innings potentially on day four or five here?’ So probably a little bit different to the Gabba, but the last couple of years here it’s been a fantastic wicket.”Cummins said the Australians were keen to honour the memory of the late Shane Warne, whose death in March will be heavily commemorated across this Test.“Boxing Day on the calendar, everyone goes back to their childhood, waking up Boxing Day morning, watching the TV, seeing the anthems. It will really hit home that Warney’s not here this year, hopefully we can celebrate.”Proteas drop big hint on Boxing Day XI Ed BourkeSouth Africa will make the bold call to again pick five specialist bowlers for the Boxing Day Test, but captain Dean Elgar has not ruled out changes to the visiting side’s struggling batting lineup.Elgar said the Proteas’ bowling attack from the Gabba would all be retained for the second Test, but admitted they had discussed tweaking the side’s balance in favour of more batting depth even before the series opener in Brisbane.Left arm quick Marco Jansen, who will bat at number seven, has an average of only 18.36 after eight tests, with a high score of 48.He only managed 2 and 0 as South Africa was skittled for 152 and 99 at the Gabba.“That was the chat prior to the first Test … playing an extra batter,” Elgar said.The South African skipper would not be drawn on whether changes would be made to the top six, with middle order players Theunis de Bruyn and Heinrich Klaasen both eyeing Test recalls.Rassie van der Dussen, who remains without a Test century after 32 innings, would appear the most likely player to make way for one of the pair after third-gamer Khaya Zondo showed some grit with an unbeaten 36 in the second innings at Brisbane.“I’m not giving that away,” Elgar said of a possible change.“But as I say, the bowlers will retain their spots.”Both batting lineups had major challenges on a “spicy” Gabba wicket in the first Test, and South Africa remained confident it had the right formula to succeed in Australia, Elgar said.“I’m pretty sure we know what the recipe for success is in Australia, he said.“We’ve come here to play good Test cricket, and to put on a spectacle, put on a show.”‘Back against the wall’: Defiant Warner reveals mindsetA stubborn David Warner says the end of his Test run drought is imminent ahead of his 100th match at the MCG on Boxing Day.Warner said his lean home summer had partly been caused by poor mental health ahead of the first West Indies Test in Perth, accusing Cricket Australia of failing to provide support as he addressed the media on Christmas Eve.Warner, who has made 105 runs at 17.5 this summer and is yet to pass 50, said his headspace had improved and he felt a turn in on-field fortune was just around the corner.“Leading into the Perth Test, my mental health probably wasn’t where I needed to be at, to be 100 per cent,” he said.He said the aborted appeal process to have his leadership ban overturned had been “challenging” to deal with as he approached the Test series.“If I had it my way, we would’ve had (the appeal) all sorted,” he said.“From the CA point of view I didn’t really have any support — but my teammates and the staff, our team were absolutely amazing and my family and friends, so that really got me through that period.“I’m in a great headspace now, we’re getting ready for this training session, I’m pumped to walk out here and play another Boxing Day Test … but more importantly we’ve got a series that’s on the line and we can put that away if we win.”Warner said he was extremely proud of himself just to have played cricket for Australia, let alone 100 Test matches, as he reflected on his early childhood ambitions.“The young boy from the housing commission at Matraville … growing up through the housing commission taught me how to fight hard and achieve the goal that you wanted … I’m living every housing commission boy’s dream,” he said.“I wanted to play cricket for Australia, I’m doing that now. My back’s up against the wall but it’s in my DNA to keep being competitive and take it up to any opposition I’m going to face.”Despite only passing 50 twice in his previous 19 Test innings, Warner said he was getting into “great positions” in recent matches and had been the victim of “a little bit of misfortune”.“You look at some of the chop-ons … I’ve been in great positions when I’ve been snicking off, so there’s nothing you can actually do about that.“People write me off — you know that one day game here (at the MCG) and I went out and scored a hundred on a pretty dicey wicket.“I feel like I can get through anything.”Australia looks likely to name an unchanged side for the Boxing Day Test, with the Gabba pace attack of Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, Scott Boland bowling to the team’s top order while Josh Hazlewood stretched on the sidelines early at Saturday afternoon’s training sessionThe anatomy of Boland’s Boxing Day Test blitz revealed- Ben HorneSecret data championed by US sporting giants LeBron James and Michael Phelps has shed new light on the story behind Scott Boland’s Boxing Day miracle.A wrist-worn strap for elite athletes which collects more than 150 megabytes of physiological data per day, tracked Boland’s heart rate throughout his historic routing of England in last year’s Ashes classic, and the stunning numbers can now be revealed.Called Whoop, the technology has been valued at $1.2 billion, with the company counting NBA legend James and Olympics icon Phelps among its first 100 customers.The strap has been a secret weapon behind Boland’s extraordinary Test career taking off after his 32nd birthday, mainly due to the way the technology helps him monitor his sleep and recovery.Cricket fans have marvelled at the seamless way a career Sheffield Shield cricketer has instantly dominated the Test arena, with his 25 wickets from his first five Tests at an eye-dropping average of 10.36 ranking as one of the hottest starts in the history of the game.But Boland hasn’t received enough credit for his preparation as a genuinely world class elite athlete.Most Test debutants barely sleep a wink the night before their Test debut, but Boland’s Whoop data shows he slept like a rock for eight hours and 43 minutes on Christmas night.It was no fluke.Boland had for years trained himself into good sleeping habits and it paid off on the biggest day of his sporting life.Whoop has another metric called ‘Strain’, a measure of cardiovascular exertion that quantifies the amount of physical and mental stress you put on your body on a scale of 0-21.On Boxing Day, Boland hit 20/21 — the equivalent of running a marathon, but his recovery was still elite at 86 per cent.During day one alone, Boland burnt 4995 calories, similar to what a Tour de France competitor would burn on a day of riding, and nearly double what superstar quarterback Patrick Mahomes would burn in an NFL match.It’s been well documented that Boland weighed 120kg when he first burst onto the scene as a youngster — hence the nickname ‘Barrel’ — and although he’s always worked hard to stay fit during his Sheffield Shield career, the one-percenters he has dedicated himself to in the past couple of seasons has been laid bare by his elite Whoop results.Boland told News Corp before the summer that physical preparation was particularly vital when he has to spend periods waiting behind Australia’s big three of Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood for an opportunity.“I like having my body, having my legs feeling really strong,” Boland said of his pre-season focus.“I need to keep my body ready to go at any time and make sure my skills are up to it whenever I’m required.“There’s a really big Test schedule ahead. The five Tests in Australia, then four in India and England as well.“It’s going to be a really busy 18 months or so.“Opportunities will pop up. Wherever they are, I’ve just got to be ready to go.“My focus has to be that I’m ready to play any game.”A study of Mahomes’ heart rate and Strain data from his Kansas City team’s drama-packed 42-36 NFL playoff win over Buffalo last January showed the quarterback’s heart rate would spike at points where he wasn’t even physically active, and it was all due to the thrill of the contest.SCOTT BOLAND FAST FACTSBoland’s Boxing Day data reveals a similar phenomenon.The cult hero fast bowler’s heart rate spiked at 169bpm (beats per minute) from its normal resting point of about 46bpm when he was presented his baggy green cap before play.Only the second Aboriginal male to play Test cricket for Australia, Boland registered a heart rate of 170bpm for the Welcome to Country ceremony and then 171bpm when he stood for the national anthem.Those spikes were similar to the physical and emotional peaks he registered when he took his first Test wicket on day one, and then his incredible 6-7 in the second innings.Interestingly, Boland’s highest wicket-taking heart-rate spike was for claiming the key wicket in the England line-up, when he nicked off Joe Root in a euphoric moment on day three.The catcher David Warner celebrated boisterously and the MCG crowd went into a whirlwind and Boland’s heart rate went to 171bpm.
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