Undermanned reigning champions welcome back allrounder for season opener against Tasmania
Bulls boosted by Wildermuth return
Queensland are set to welcome the return of allrounder Jack Wildermuth when their squad is announced tomorrow for their JLT Sheffield Shield opener against Tasmania in Brisbane next week.
Wildermuth's return from a side strain that ruled him out for the majority of the JLT One-Day Cup is especially good news for the Bulls given they will be missing their five Test squad members for what is a re-match of last summer's Shield final.
Usman Khawaja, Matt Renshaw, Marnus Labuschagne, Michael Neser and Brendan Doggett will all be absent when the defending champions' season gets underway from next Tuesday at the Gabba, with opportunities aplenty for some less regular faces in the Queensland set-up.
"We haven't been focusing on who we're missing," said in-form batsman Sam Heazlett, who was fourth-highest scorer in the recently-completed JLT Cup.
"It's more been about who's here, and what jobs we have to do for the team, what our roles are.
"We're positive about Shield cricket, obviously winning it last year. We've still got a lot of players who have been there before, not necessarily consistent members but guys who will hopefully get more of a crack this year, because they're definitely good enough.
"We're still confident of success in that format."
Wildermuth returned to action as a batsman only in the Toyota Futures League this week, making 35 and 11 against ACT, and it remains to be seen whether the allrounder will be tasked with bowling responsibilities next week.
"To get Jack back will be a massive boost," Heazlett added. "It was a big loss to lose him at the start of the JLT Cup, he's a really valuable player for us.
"But I think there's a good balance of experience and youth in our squad."
Heazlett, 23, scored a hundred and two fifties in the JLT Cup from the top of the order and looms as a crucial player for the Bulls' batting order in the absence of their Test players.
The left-hander spent a chunk of the first half of last summer's Shield on the sidelines with a shoulder injury but averaged 40 across seven games, with a century and a fifty.
"I'll be looking to be a bit more of a leader than I have in the past, not just through words but actions as well – stepping up when the team needs it and scoring runs when it's maybe more challenging conditions," he said.
"I think I'm a better player now and my game is in a really good spot. I've got a lot of confidence going into the Shield season, I think I know my game a little bit more, where my strengths and weaknesses are, and how I can be of best value for the team."
The Bulls-Tigers clash is part of a full opening round of Shield cricket, with South Australia hosting New South Wales in Adelaide and Western Australia at home to Victoria.