Stars line up for Sheffield Shield opener
Ricky Ponting, Mitchell Johnson and Michael Hussey are expected to play in next week's opening Sheffield Shield round to give them plenty of time in the middle ahead of the upcoming tour of South Africa. The one-day squad flies out late next week but the trio, along with Xavier Doherty, will have a slightly delayed departure to allow them to turn out for their states.
And while Australia's Twenty20 squad departs this Saturday, the Victorian fast bowler James Pattinson won't fly out until after Sunday's Ryobi Cup match to give him some extra game time. The moves follow a recommendation in the Argus review that more domestic cricket be scheduled ahead of international series, to help players with their preparation.
"In line with recommendations from the Argus review it is pleasing that these players are available to play in this round of Sheffield Shield and Ryobi Cup matches ahead of what is a hugely important series against South Africa," Michael Brown, Cricket Australia's general manager of cricket, said. "To have players of such calibre playing in our premier development competitions is a bonus for those young players on the cusp of international selection in all formats of the game."
It will continue a whirlwind month for Hussey, who was Player of the Series on the Test tour of Sri Lanka, then went to India to play for Chennai Super Kings in the Champions League Twenty20, and next Tuesday will begin a four-day clash against Tasmania at the WACA. He and Johnson have been named in the Warriors' 13-man squad for the Shield game, along with the batsman Travis Birt, who could make his debut for the state after moving from Tasmania - who have not yet named their squad - during the off-season.
The Warriors will be without the Marsh brothers, Shaun and Mitchell, who will be in South Africa as part of Australia's Twenty20 side. Victoria will have even more absentees for their opening games, with the captain Cameron White, David Hussey, Aaron Finch and Matthew Wade all set to miss Sunday's season-opening Ryobi Cup game against Queensland at the Gabba.
Andrew McDonald will captain the Bushrangers, the defending champions, in a tournament that has this season returned to its 50-over format after the split-innings experimentation of last summer. The batsman Peter Handscomb is set to make his state debut, having been named in Victoria's squad for the one-day clash and the Shield game that starts on Tuesday, also against the Bulls.
Queensland could have two imports, although one originally home-grown, after naming the batsman Peter Forrest and the fast bowler Steve Magoffin for the one-day game. The inclusion of Forrest, who moved from New South Wales during the winter, was no surprise, but less expected was the selection of Magoffin, 31, who was axed by Western Australia earlier in the year.
Magoffin was originally from Queensland but moved to Perth in 2004-05, when he was stuck behind Andy Bichel, Michael Kasprowicz, Ashley Noffke, Joe Dawes and others in the Bulls' bowling queue. Despite moving home, Magoffin was not offered a Queensland contract this year, but impressed the selectors with a strong start to Brisbane's grade cricket season.
The other surprise from the Bulls was the inclusion of Ben Dunk, who was the preferred wicketkeeper ahead of the veteran Chris Hartley, who had been phased out of the T20 side over the past few seasons but remained in the one-day outfit. Hartley, 29, is expected to retain his place in the Sheffield Shield squad but will face pressure during the season from Dunk, who is so well-regarded that he even captained the state's one-day side in a match last season.
Victoria Ryobi Cup squad Brad Hodge, Chris Rogers, Peter Handscomb, Rob Quiney, Andrew McDonald (capt), Glenn Maxwell, Ryan Carters (wk), Mark Cleary, Peter Siddle, James Pattinson, Darren Pattinson, Jon Holland.
Victoria Sheffield Shield squad Chris Rogers, Peter Handscomb, Rob Quiney, Andrew McDonald (capt), Alex Keath, Glenn Maxwell, Ryan Carters (wk), Peter Siddle, Clint McKay, Darren Pattinson, Jayde Herrick, Jon Holland.
Queensland Ryobi Cup squad Ryan Broad, Andrew Robinson, Chris Lynn, Peter Forrest, Nathan Reardon, James Hopes (capt), Ben Dunk (wk), Brad Ipson, Chris Swan, Ben Cutting, Steve Magoffin, Cameron Gannon.
Western Australia Sheffield Shield squad Wes Robinson, Marcus Harris, Marcus North (capt), Michael Hussey, Adam Voges, Travis Birt, Tom Beaton, Michael Johnson (wk), Mitchell Johnson, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Michael Beer, Michael Hogan, Matt Dixon.