Australia will face Pakistan in the second Test match in Melbourne starting December 26 but ahead of the game, a special gesture from the Shan Masood-led side has won hearts. Masood, along with former skipper Babar Azam and few members of the team management, visited the Australian team during their indoor practice session at the Melbourne Cricket Ground with gifts and candies for everyone. The cricketers interacted with each other and gave out lollipops for all the kids present. The gesture won many hearts online and Australia skipper Pat Cummins could not stop praising the effort.

“That was just great. Just Merry Christmas gifts and lollipops for the kids. So that was great. We’ve got a good relationship with the Pakistan side. That tour a couple of years ago was really special as well. So really kind and thoughtful of their group to think of us,” Cummins said in appreciation.

Meanwhile, Australia named an unchanged XI on Monday for the Boxing Day Test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground as they look to seal the series against Pakistan, who dropped veteran wicketkeeper-batter Sarfaraz Ahmed.

The hosts crushed Shan Masood’s side by 360 runs inside four days at the first Test in Perth, with pace spearheads Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood all coming through unscathed.

It means Scott Boland, who took 6-7 on debut at the MCG against England in 2021, misses out.

“We’re a huge fan of Scotty, I don’t think that’s a secret,” skipper Cummins told reporters on a wet Christmas Day.

“He’s ready to go if anything happens, so I’m sure he’ll play a part at some point.

“The message (to Boland) is always ‘we love what you bring, unfortunately, you miss out on this one but don’t change, keep working hard and make sure you stay ready’.”

Showers and potential thunderstorms are expected for the first day of play but are forecast to clear by Wednesday afternoon and Cummins said he was confident of a result.

“I think there will be plenty of time to finish the game. I don’t think (the weather) will change anything,” he said.

“(The wicket) looks pretty good. Fair bit of grass, probably a little bit harder and not as green as last year.”

Pakistan have been hit hard by injuries since Perth with fast bowler Khurram Shahzad and their two leading spinners, Abrar Ahmed and Noman Ali, all ruled out of the Melbourne match.

They named a 12-man squad with Sarfaraz Ahmed and speedster Faheem Ashraf axed.

Mohammad Nawaz will take the gloves, with Mir Hamza and Hasan Ali in contention for Shahzad’s place in the attack alongside veteran Shaheen Shah Afridi and impressive newcomer Aamer Jamal.

With Ahmed and Ali sidelined, Sajid Khan is their only spin option.

“We think Rizwan is ready and we can give Sarfaraz a little bit of a break to recoup and come back,” said Masood.

“It’s more of a tactical decision in terms of the conditions and what we can get out of each player.”

(With AFP inputs)

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