MacGill named for Pura Cup return
The last round of Pura Cup matches looms as a bowl-off between Australia's spinners after Stuart MacGill was named in the New South Wales squad for his first match back since an operation on his right wrist in December. The Blues and Victoria are both vying for the right to host the Pura Cup final - the teams have already qualified and are equal on points - but the performances of several slow bowlers will add an intriguing sub-plot.
Australia are searching for a Test spinner for their tours of Pakistan and West Indies following the retirement of Brad Hogg, and a fit MacGill would be the leading candidate. His ability to bowl long spells was uncertain due to his lengthy lay-off, however MacGill grabbed 4 for 66 on the weekend for his club side Sydney University.
"I was very, very nervous before I bowled a ball because I wasn't sure if I was ready to go yet," MacGill told AAP. "But very shortly into my first spell, I knew I was ready to play state cricket."
He has two games to show the selectors where he is at and the second of those matches, the Pura Cup final, will provide an interesting head-to-head battle with one of his main rivals, Victoria's Bryce McGain. Before that, he must focus on the four-day game against South Australia at the SCG starting on Friday, which may also feature the Redbacks' Cricket Australia-contracted legspinner Cullen Bailey.
Having been overlooked since the opening game of South Australia's campaign, when he returned match figures of 1 for 103 against Victoria, Bailey has been recalled to a 12-man squad for what could be his second match of the summer. He replaces the newly-retired Jason Gillespie in an otherwise unchanged Redbacks group and if he makes the starting line-up he will not only be trying to out-perform MacGill but also his South Australia team-mate Dan Cullen.
Bailey was the state's preferred slow bowler last season, when Cullen was on the fringes, but in 2007-08 the roles have been reversed. Cullen has played seven Pura Cup games this summer, and although his return of 14 wickets at 59.42 has been disappointing, he has also been mentioned as a potential tourist with the national team.
MacGill's main aim will be to get through a full first-class match as his comeback from surgery for carpal-tunnel syndrome has so far been limited to a couple of club outings. He pulled out of a New South Wales Second XI game last week as the focus remained on his Pura Cup return.
He is joined in the Blues squad by Brad Haddin, whose ODI commitments have finished, and Grant Lambert, who is back from injury. Daniel Smith, Steven Smith and Burt Cockley have made way for the returning trio. Victory against South Australia would mean New South Wales will host the Pura Cup decider but a loss or draw will leave the venue to be determined by Victoria's result against Queensland.
New South Wales squad Phil Jaques, Phillip Hughes, Peter Forrest, Simon Katich (capt), Usman Khawaja, Dominic Thornely, Brad Haddin (wk), Grant Lambert, Beau Casson, Matthew Nicholson, Mark Cameron, Stuart MacGill.
South Australia squad Daniel Harris, Jake Brown, Andy Delmont, Callum Ferguson, Daniel Christian, Shane Deitz, Graham Manou (capt, wk), Mark Cleary, Ryan Harris, Cullen Bailey, Dan Cullen, Paul Rofe.