Victoria drop Wade for must-win match
Victoria will push for a home Pura Cup final without their regular wicketkeeper Matthew Wade, who has been dropped at the business end of the season. Adam Crosthwaite returns to the four-day team for the first time this season for their match against Queensland at the MCG starting on Friday.
The Bushrangers have already secured their place in the decider but they must take at least first-innings points to have any chance of avoiding a trip to Sydney for the final. New South Wales and Victoria are equal on points but the Blues have the edge as they are ahead on quotient.
The MCG has this season provided slow and low drop-in pitches that have been difficult to score on and Victoria's captain Cameron White said it would be an advantage to play for the title in familiar conditions. "In four-day games we've got results here," White said. "We've won both ways, batting first and batting last.
"It's home conditions for us so it's a bit of an advantage. [But] we've got a pretty good record up in Sydney so we're not too fussed about where we play. Obviously we'd like it here because that gives a bit of advantage given you don't have to win the game to win the Pura Cup."
Victoria have almost a full-strength line-up to choose from, with only Gerard Denton (ankle) and Peter Siddle (shoulder) unavailable. Dirk Nannes returns to a 13-man squad after recovering from a foot injury, Darren Pattinson is back from an ankle problem and the injury-prone Shane Harwood is being rested ahead of the final.
The big surprise was their decision to axe Wade, who has played all nine Pura Cup games this summer after switching from Tasmania during the off-season. He is the competition's leading wicketkeeper in 2007-08 with 38 dismissals and he has averaged 27.91 with the bat.
Although Wade, 20, has struggled for big runs lately he has still out-performed his replacement Crosthwaite, who is the state's preferred limited-overs gloveman, in Melbourne's club competition. Wade's grade season has brought 587 runs at 48.91 compared to Crosthwaite's 316 runs at 45.14.
Queensland announced their squad on Monday but have made three changes due to health concerns with several players. Martin Love has been forced out due to a sudden attack of Bell's palsy, which causes paralysis in the facial muscles, Chris Swan has a groin injury, and Greg Moller is still recovering from concussion following a blow to the head while fielding in close in the Bulls' previous match.
Nathan Reardon and Ben Laughlin will make their first-class debuts, while the opener Nick Kruger has also been added to the squad along with Clinton Perren. Laughlin, a right-arm seam bowler, is the son of the former Australia Test allrounder Trevor Laughlin and will put his day-job as a carpenter on hold to play in the Pura Cup match.
Reardon, a regular member of the Queensland Twenty20 and FR Cup sides, is coming off excellent club form with scores of 160 and 135 not out from his past two games. The Bulls will be led by Chris Simpson, who has been temporarily handed the captaincy following the retirement of Jimmy Maher.
Victoria squad Nick Jewell, Lloyd Mash, Brad Hodge, David Hussey, Cameron White (capt), Rob Quiney, Andrew McDonald, Adam Crosthwaite (wk), Clint McKay, Bryce McGain, Darren Pattinson, Allan Wise, Dirk Nannes.
Queensland squad Ryan Broad, Nick Kruger, Nathan Reardon, Clinton Perren, Shane Watson, Chris Simpson (capt), Aaron Nye, Ashley Noffke, Chris Hartley (wk), Daniel Doran, Ben Laughlin, Scott Brant.