The XXXX Queensland Bulls will move their preparations for the start of the 2002-03 season into a new phase this weekend with the annual City-Country clash in Dalby.
The Queensland selectors have named two squads for the weekend trial matches, which will both be limited overs games to help the Bulls prepare for their ING Cup season opener against defending champions NSW in Sydney on October 13.
Pace bowlers Adam Dale (shoulder) and Mitchell Johnson (back) are expected to make returns after missing the bulk of last season with injury while batsman Martin Love will test his recovery from a badly-broken little finger that cut short his English playing stint with Durham.
With Matthew Hayden, Andy Bichel, Jimmy Maher, Nathan Hauritz and Andrew Symonds on international duty and Bulls regulars Michael Kasprowicz, Ashley Noffke, Stuart Law, Lee Carseldine, Clinton Perren and Brendan Nash in England, the selectors have provided an opportunity for several young players to impress.
The City Bulls team contains Valley left-hander Nick Kruger, who produced a blazing 116 not out off 88 balls last week for the Queensland Academy of Sport in the National Institute Challenge in Darwin, Australian Under-19 batsman Craig Philipson and off-spinner Scott O'Leary returns from an injury that kept him out of the Darwin matches.
The Country Bulls line-up includes Sunshine Coast batsman Aaron Maynard and 19-year-old Toowoomba allrounder Peter Reimers, a member of the Queensland Country team that won last year's Australian Country championships.
Bulls coach Terry Oliver said the matches would play an important role in the lead-up to the season.
"Most of these blokes have been working very hard on their physical fitness for the past few months and they will be very keen to see how the fruits of their labour translate on the playing field," he said.
"Some of them have had the chance to play some cricket in Darwin and Townsville in the past few weeks with the various Challenge series that have been held and they have generally performed strongly."
"But the selectors and I are very keen to see how some of the young blokes respond to the challenge of performing alongside some of the experienced players. We're entering an important phase of the pre-season now and these games are an good gauge for us as we get closer to the club season and then to the first class and one-day season."
The two sides will play a 60-over match on Saturday and a 50-over match on Sunday. The players will also attend a BBQ at the ground on Saturday after the match that will be open to the public.
City: Nick Kruger, Duncan Betts, Chris Simpson, Ryan Broad, James Hopes, Craig Philipson, Chris Hartley, Scott Brant, Scott O'Leary, Damien MacKenzie, Matthew Petrie, Adam Dale.
Country: Aaron Maynard, Jerry Cassell, Martin Love, Daniel Payne, Steve Paulsen, Wade Seccombe, Peter Reimers, Mitchell Johnson, Ben Edmondson, Joe Dawes, Matthew Anderson, Nathan Rimmington.
Umpires: Greg Cubit, Mark Dalgleish