A fit-again Joe Burns has been recalled to Queensland's side for the final round of the JLT Sheffield Shield as the ladder leaders meet the NSW Blues in Wollongong.
Burns has not featured in the second half of the Shield season and had been out of action since injuring his groin in January while playing for the Brisbane Heat in the KFC Big Bash League.
The former Test opener revealed today he thought his season was over after the injury, but his quicker-than-expected recovery is a timely boost for the Bulls as they chase a first Shield title since the 2011-12 summer.
"When I first did it, we thought my season was over," Burns told reporters today.
"It was a three-month kind of injury. But after maybe the first month it was tracking quite well, so it's good to get the chance to play the last round and the Shield Final.
"I’m really blessed from that point of view."
Burns had been in superb form for the Bulls and the Heat before the injury, and his name had been touted for a possible recall with the Australia Test team for the ongoing Qantas Tour of South Africa as a spare batsman.
At the Christmas break, Burns was Queensland's leading Shield run-scorer with 514 at 57.11.
He has proven his match fitness in Queensland Premier Cricket with Norths and in the Toyota Futures League over the past few weeks, scoring 47 and 15 in his past two knocks, and comes into the Bulls team in place of rookie opener Lachlan Pfeffer in the only change to their squad.
"It'd be nice to make a few more runs in the games I have played but just spending some time in the middle just from a physical point of view was key for me," Burns said.
"I've played enough cricket now to know that skills will come back quite quickly, it was just about getting on the field."
If Burns can recapture the form from the first half of the season, it makes the Bulls an even more formidable outfit with the touch Matthew Renshaw has been in recently, with centuries in each of the past three Shield games.
Burns, who like Renshaw is also actively hunting winter cricket in England's county system, was not surprised the deposed Test opener had hit his straps.
"Early in season we had difficult wickets and he was batting quite well but the runs weren't there," Burns said of Renshaw's lean run to open the domestic summer that ultimately cost him his Test spot.
"Now he's putting it all together and (in terms of the Test team) opportunities will come.
"Renners is just focused on making runs for Queensland, and that's all you can do, make runs week-in, week-out.
"First-class cricket is extremely tough, a grind from week to week, and if you can perform consistently the opportunities will come from there.
"He's hitting the ball really well, we're very happy to have him playing for us. Hopefully it will all come together for him and he can win the Shield and get back in that Australia Test team at some stage."
Queensland are sitting pretty at the top of the Shield ladder with 47.87 points, and head to Wollongong for their final regular season clash safe in the knowledge that they cannot miss the final.
They hold an 8.58-point advantage over second-placed Tasmania, who are just 0.18 points ahead of Victoria, and those teams meet in a virtual semi-final in Hobart to earn the right to face Queensland, almost certainly at Allan Border Field.
NSW are out of contention for the Shield final after a narrow defeat to Victoria in the last round, a defeat that rocked the Blues further when veteran batsman Ed Cowan called time on his career.
Blues seamer Trent Copeland said tears were shed in the NSW rooms after Cowan called time but the Blues were motivated to end their season on a high ahead of the possibility of a rebuild for NSW over the winter.
"This match may be a dead rubber in the sense we can't make the Shield final, but we want to knock them over," said Copeland.
"Any time we get a chance to play a Shield game for NSW it's about pride in the cap, pride in the history, it's about being the best state, county, province in the world. We don't need any more motivation than that.
"The wicket down here whenever we've played here has had a bit of pace and bounce and it's a bit of a batters' paradise for a couple of days then the bowlers come back into it at the back end."
The Blues added off-spinner Will Somerville to their squad to replace the retired Cowan, with Nic Maddinson likely to come back into the playing XI.
"He's worked really hard the last couple of weeks, he had a really good back end of the BBL, has scored big runs in Premier Cricket and he takes the bowlers on," said Copeland. "He plays the modern game and takes it to the opposition."
The match will be live streamed on cricket.com.au and the CA Live app.
Queensland Bulls: James Peirson (c), Joe Burns, Brendan Doggett, Luke Feldman, Sam Heazlett, Charlie Hemphrey, Marnus Labuschagne, Michael Neser, Matthew Renshaw, Mark Steketee, Mitch Swepson, Jack Wildermuth.
NSW Blues: Peter Nevill (c), Sean Abbott, Harry Conway, Trent Copeland, Moises Henriques, Daniel Hughes, Nick Larkin, Nic Maddinson, Stephen O'Keefe, Kurtis Patterson, Gurinder Sandhu, Will Somerville, Param Uppal.