The series opener in Hobart answered a few questions: Phil Hughes deserved a third chance at Test level, Shane Watson is a suitable number four batsman, Australia's attack is a veritable revolving door - and Sri Lanka will compete Down Under.

Now is the time to fortify the four-fold promise across five days of hard-fought topflight competition at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, which will host the international year's closing throes.

Hughes looked the part in Tasmania, welcoming the number three berth in fine style - and offered the selectors a degree of comfort amid the daunting task of replacing the retired Ricky Ponting. The MCG, though, will bring tougher conditions - and an opposition attack somewhat more street smart for their lessons learnt last week.

The hosts' fast-bowling turnstile, though, needs slowing - and the rookie Jackson Bird is the latest asked to do so. Australia's list of walking wounded is a lengthy read, and team physiotherapist Alex Kountouris is at a loss, but Bird's arrival offers reprieve.

The 26-year-old right-armer has accumulated a stunning average near second to none at domestic level this season, and in truth, looks far more the real deal than Josh Hazlewood ever did and John Hastings ever will.

The leadership prowess of Watson and the recall of Usman Khawaja, too, will make for intriguing viewing - should the hamstrung Clarke not recover in time for Wednesday's toss.

Sri Lanka will take a lot of heart from their showing at the Bellerive Oval. The fixture was certainly not as one-sided as expected, and this time around they've also got last year's Boxing Day Test success against South Africa to draw inspiration from.

Seamer Chanaka Welegedara cherished some solid form then, and last week in Hobart, with a quick conditions awaiting a repeat performance at the MCG. And in spinner Rangana Herath - 2012's leading Test wicket-taker - the visitors have a bowler whose prolific statistics complement his modest nature.

In the batting ranks, as has been the case time and time again this year, will be up to the lesser experienced ranks to come to the party no either side - or in the place of Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara's collective prevalence.

The lone Boxing Day Test amid a calendar dogged by the onset of Twenty20 International cricket in South Africa and India to oblige the festive-season crowds, this clash is indeed appropriately poised to warrant its status a cut above the rest.

Key Men
Peter Siddle's role has become all the more important in the wake of Ben Hilfenhaus' injury, with Hobart's Man of the Match in need of a big showing alongside newbie Bird and a potentially temperamental Mitchell Johnson.

Chanaka Welegedara, again, will lead the visiting attack. Largely kept away from fleeting selection in ODI and T20I cricket, the southpaw seamer is consistently saved for the biggest stage - and the big occasion.

Last Five Head-To-Head Results
2012: Australia won by 137 runs in Hobart
2011: Third Test, match drawn in Colombo
2011: Second Test: Match drawn in Pallekele
2011: First Test: Australia won by 125 runs in Galle
2007: Fourth Test: Australia won by 96 runs in Hobart

Prediction
Online betting firm Sky Bet have Australia at 8/15 and Sri Lanka at 5/1 in the odds to win the second Test. Visit Sky Bet for the latest cricket betting.

More cricket bets here.

Probable Teams
Australia: Ed Cowan, David Warner, Phil Hughes, Shane Watson, Michael Clarke (captain), Michael Hussey, Matthew Wade (wicketkeeper), Mitchell Johnson, Peter Siddle, Jackson Bird, Nathan Lyon.

Sri Lanka: Tillakaratne Dilshan, Dimuth Karunaratne, Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene (captain), Thilan Samaraweera, Angelo Mathews, Prasanna Jayawardene (wicketkeeper), Nuwan Kulasekara, Rangana Herath, Shaminda Eranga, Chanaka Welegedara.

Dates: 26-30 December
Morning session: 10:30-12:30 (23:30-01:30 GMT)
Afternoon session: 13:10-15:10 (02:10-04:10 GMT)
Evening session: 15:30-17:30 (04:30-06:30 GMT)
On-field umpires: Nigel Llong and Aleem Dar
Third umpire: Tony Hill
Match referee: Chris Broad.