Stuart MacGill's dream first-class return from injury has ended a dark patch that threatened to close his international career. However, after taking 5 for 49 for New South Wales on the opening day of the Pura Cup match against South Australia he is back at the front of the queue and the country's spin stocks are suddenly much healthier.
During MacGill's absence Brad Hogg was the leading slow man, but when he retired Bryce McGain and Dan Cullen were the main options if MacGill did not recover from the wrist surgery he had late last year. The operation was required after MacGill felt numbness in his bowling arm and he performed poorly in the second Test against Sri Lanka in Hobart. There was doubt about whether he could regain fitness - he was also struggling with a knee injury - but he has overcome the initial hurdle.
MacGill started with a wicket first ball and was satisfied with his return during 17.4 overs. "The reason I'm happiest is that it didn't go completely to plan," he said in the Australian. "For a long period I wasn't exactly as I wanted to be playing. Probably at the end when I was going for the most runs was when I thought I could put the most work on the ball."
On an SCG surface sympathetic to the spinners - Cullen picked up 3 for 9 on day one - MacGill captured Daniel Harris with his opening delivery. "There was definitely luck, there was no question of luck being with me," he said. "You know, first ball, half-tracker, straight to point, that's probably as lucky as you are going to get. Mind you, I've been lucky a number of times in my career if that's the criteria, but maybe it was straight back into form first ball, I don't know."
MacGill is 37 but Andrew Hilditch, the national chairman of selectors, is not bothered by age and wants a high-class spinner with the Test squad. "The reality is that we envisage, as we did at the start of the season, that we were really looking to get from Stuart, or perhaps Hoggy, a couple of years of cricket where we get a period of time for the younger spinners around the country to develop and take that next step," Hilditch told the paper. "Obviously with Stuart's injuries and now Brad Hogg's retirement, that plan's pretty much on hold at the moment.
"We're obviously interested in how Stuart goes in his comeback. I haven't seen him for a little while. I'm told he's looking extremely fit and has made a lot of progress over the last couple of months so it will be interesting to see how he goes." He has started well and will have another opportunity as New South Wales chase hosting rights for the final.