Queensland captain drops to No. 4 to help Watson October 8, 2007

Maher stands down as Pura Cup opener

Ryan Broad is a young player who will benefit from Jimmy Maher's decision to move down the order © Getty Images

Queensland have given Shane Watson a boost in his bid to be an international top-order batsman with Jimmy Maher dropping from opener to No. 4 in the first-class arena this season. Maher is in his final campaign as the Bulls captain and has reduced his duties further to encourage the state's emerging talent and Watson, who has signalled his desire to replace Justin Langer in the Test team.

"It will be a tremendous opportunity for Shane to state a case for international honours," Maher said of the move. "It also gives the young guys in the squad - Ryan Broad, Greg Moller, Chris Simpson etc - better opportunities."

However, Watson will have to wait for his first match of the home season as he recovers from a hamstring injury sustained during the Twenty20 World Cup in South Africa. He is expected to be available for the games against New South Wales starting on October 24.

Watson's unavailability means Maher will open with Broad in Wednesday's season-opening FR Cup fixture against Tasmania at the Gabba. Maher, who intends to continue as a batsman for a couple of years, wants to ensure a smooth transition when the squad's large group of experienced players starts to stand down.

"When I came into the squad I knew what was wanted of me and the Mahers and the Loves may not be around for a long time," he said. "It's best while we're still here that we're able to offer advice." Martin Love is due to come back in November following two knee operations.

One player who will benefit from Maher's move is Broad, who impressed when posting 111 against Stuart MacGill on a final-day SCG pitch at the end of last season. Broad will play his third one-day match against the Tigers and was relieved Maher was dropping down the Pura Cup order.

"I'd heard the rumours," he said, "but it's great that it's official." The Bulls will announce the side for Friday's Pura Cup match against the Tigers on Wednesday.

Tasmania's bowling attack has been struck by injuries to Damien Wright and Luke Butterworth while Ben Hilfenhaus is on national duty. "They have stitched us up a few times in the last few years and the boys aren't happy," Maher said. "Now with Hilfenhaus out, let's see how good their depth is."

Mark Divin, the allrounder, is in line to make his one-day debut two seasons after moving from the ACT. Chris Duval, who is originally from South Australia, is eyeing a first-class debut on Friday as he joins Brendan Drew, Brett Geeves and Adam Griffith in providing cover for Hilfenhaus.

Queensland FR Cup squad Ryan Broad, Jimmy Maher (capt), Clinton Perren, Aaron Nye, Michael Buchanan, Craig Philipson, Chris Hartley (wk), Nathan Reardon, Chris Simpson, Ashley Noffke, Grant Sullivan, Andy Bichel.

Tasmania FR Cup squad Michael Di Venuto, Tim Paine (wk), Michael Dighton, Travis Birt, George Bailey, Daniel Marsh (capt), Dane Anderson, Mark Divin, Xavier Doherty, Brendan Drew, Brett Geeves, Adam Griffith.

Tasmania Pura Cup squad Michael Di Venuto, Tim Paine, Michael Dighton, Travis Birt, George Bailey, Daniel Marsh (capt), Sean Clingeleffer (wk) Mark Divin, Brendan Drew, Chris Duval, Brett Geeves, Adam Griffith.

Peter English is the Australasian editor of Cricinfo