The New South Wales Blues have made one change to the 13-man squad that narrowly lost to Victoria last week for its final match of the JLT Sheffield Shield season against ladder leaders Queensland at North Dalton Park in Wollongong, starting on Wednesday.
Blues off-spinner Will Somerville returns to the squad for the final fixture following the retirement of former Australian opening batsman Ed Cowan.
Australia and Blues left-arm orthodox spinner Steve O’Keefe said he and the whole squad are excited about returning to the Illawarra.
“I love Wollongong … excited about it, I think the wicket will be a little bit of a mystery to us, but that’s just about us adapting to it as quickly possible on game day.”
O’Keefe was named player of the match in the 23-run defeat to Victoria after his magnificent return of 10 wickets for the match.
The brilliant performance was highlighted by a remarkable 8-77 on the first day, which included the scalps of Australian players Glenn Maxwell and Aaron Finch, who both departed cheaply. O’Keefe finished the match with 10-152.
However, it was a bittersweet feeling for O’Keefe.
“I’m happy with the way they’re coming out, but to be honest it’s 10 wickets in a losing side, so it’s not a match-winning performance.”
The left-arm orthodox spinner has played just the four matches this season due to injury, and has 16 wickets at 28.87.
Fellow tweaker and new addition to the squad, Somerville, has played just the one match this season against South Australia at the SCG last month.
Last season the spinner was the Blues leading wicket-taker in the Sheffield Shield. He claimed 35 wickets at 23.14 and returned best figures of 8-136 against Queensland.
Trent Copeland is the leading wicket taker for NSW so far in the 2017-18 Sheffield Shield. The Blues seamer has 25 scalps to his name at 27.8 including two five-wicket hauls.
He claimed 5-59 in the second innings of the match against Victoria at the newly developed Junction Oval.
O’Keefe said the chance to renew State of Origin rivalries against Queensland presents a good opportunity to finish a disappointing season with a win.
“We come up against Queensland, who are going to finish on top and have got the home Shield final, so if you're going to make a statement at the back end and play for pride, then there’s no better team than the team that is in poll position to win it, so we’ve certainly got a lot to play for.”
NSW Blues squad
Peter NEVILL (Eastern Suburbs) Captain
Sean ABBOTT (Parramatta)
Harry CONWAY (Eastern Suburbs)
Trent COPELAND (Western Zone / St George)
Moises HENRIQUES (St George)
Daniel HUGHES (Western Zone / Mosman)
Nick LARKIN (North Coast / Sydney University)
Nic MADDINSON (Southern Zone / Eastern Suburbs)
Stephen O KEEFE (Manly-Warringah)
Kurtis PATTERSON (St George)
Gurinder SANDHU (Fairfield-Liverpool)
Will SOMERVILLE (Eastern Suburbs)
Param UPPAL (Fairfield-Liverpool)