The NSW Blues have made five changes to their 12-man squad for the Marsh Sheffield Shield match against Victoria at the MCG, beginning on Friday.
Nick Bertus, Sean Abbott, Matthew Gilkes, Liam Hatcher, and Harry Conway have all been included, replacing internationals Steve Smith, Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, and Nathan Lyon.
An attacking batsman, Gilkes, 20, from the NSW South Coast, has made his Shield and One-Day debuts for the Blues this season while Hatcher, 23, made his One-Day debut for the Blues after the fast bowler had some strong Second XI performances for NSW Metro, taking 21 wickets in two matches at an average of 9.38.
The Blues are clear leaders on the Shield table having won all four matches. Queensland is second almost 14 points behind, with two wins and a draw. Current title holders Victoria are yet to win a match.
This will be the Blues’ first match of the summer without any of their leading international players but four veterans, captain Peter Nevill, Trent Copeland, Moises Henriques and Steve O’Keefe, have all played Test cricket while Sean Abbott won his way back into Australia’s Twenty20 side earlier this month after a five-year absence from international white ball cricket.
Copeland needs six wickets to become just the fourth player to claim 300 Shield wickets for the Blues behind Geoff Lawson (367), Greg Matthews (363) and Stuart MacGill (328).
The seamer currently has 294 wickets at 25.68 from 74 matches.
Copeland and O’Keefe have had some Shield success for the Blues at the MCG. In six matches Copeland has claimed 23 wickets at 26.83 and O’Keefe 20 wickets at 27.8.
The Blues have a reasonable recent record at the MCG, having won two of their past five matches there and played out a draw.
NSW Blues squad
Peter NEVILL (Captain)