Australia's competition comes from within against West Indies


Australia may not be hosting the most fearsome competition in Saturday's Boxing Day Test, but there is no shortage of intrigue for the second Test against West Indies.

As a contest, not much is expected from the Windies at the MCG after losing by an innings and 212 runs in the first Test in Hobart, with Australia expected to win comfortably once again.

But no one in the Australian team will be resting on the laurels with plenty of competition for places.

In the batting department, David Warner's brilliant recent form with 656 runs in his last seven innings keeps him safe in the top two, while Joe Burns is facing strong competition from Shaun Marsh at the other end.

Warner and Burns have a partnership average of 88.5, the highest of any Australian opening pair with at least five innings, but Burns has failed to make 50 in his last five innings.

Usman Khawaja could also make his international return after an impressive return to the crease in the Big Bash League, knocking a century and batting all 20 overs for Sydney Thunder against Melbourne Stars to announce his comeback from a month-long lay-off with a hamstring injury.

With the ball, James Pattinson, Josh Hazlewood, Peter Siddle and potential Australia debutant Scott Boland are vying for three spots in the side.

Boland was called up as an injury replacement for Nathan Coulter-Nile, who suffered a shoulder injury in Big Bash League action for the Perth Scorchers, and has impressed in training after some good form in the Sheffield Shield for Victoria.

Pattinson took 5-27 during the Windies second innings in Hobart, while Hazlewood has taken more Test wickets against West Indies (19) than any other opponent and holds the best average of any bowler to have registered at least 15 Test wickets against the Windies (9.7).

The Windies played out a weather-effected draw in a two-day match against a Victoria XI in preparation for Boxing Day, but failed to convince, with Jerome Taylor seemingly disinterested as he missed an easy catch, standing outside the boundary of play and facing the stands as captain Jason Holder bowled with the score at 38-1.

In response, West Indies coach Phil Simmons said improving the team's body language had become a real focus, and he will hope any improvement in that aspect of their game will be reflected in their actual performance.

Darren Bravo was the standout performer for the Windies in the first Test, knocking a classy century, but he will need much more support from his teammates if West Indies are to stand any chance of keeping this series alive.