Lehmann backs Blues to cover star duo
QUEENSLAND coach Darren Lehmann believes NSW has the depth to cover the loss of international duo Shane Watson and Mitchell Starc in this week's Sheffield Shield match in Canberra.
Watson and Starc were left out of the NSW squad named on Saturday for the first-class game with the Bulls at Manuka Oval, starting on Tuesday.
National selectors have decided to keep the all-rounder and the left-arm fast bowler with the Australian Test team.
Watson will travel with the national team to Perth to continue his rehabilitation from a calf injury.
It is hoped he will be fit for the third Test at the WACA starting next Friday, which is the last day of the Sheffield Shield match in Canberra.
Test players have this season been allowed to be substituted out of first-class games, but the Blues are resigned to being without their two stars.
Starc has been the 12th man for the first two Tests against South Africa, but he would be the man most likely to be included if Australia goes for an all-out pace attack on the bouncy WACA surface.
Lehmann, who had a first-hand look at the Manuka Oval surface while playing with the Australian Cricket Association Masters on Saturday, said the Blues were blessed to have plenty of quality players at their disposal.
The Blues have named a squad with six internationals, including veteran wicketkeeper Brad Haddin, rising star Josh Hazlewood and in-form all-rounder Moises Henriques.
''They've got some guys who are in great form, so we're going to have to play well and adapt quickly to the conditions,'' Lehmann said.
''I'm not surprised Starc and Watson aren't there, not when you have to fly from Canberra to Perth and you have back-to-back Test matches.
''Both sides need the points so it's going to be a quality game.''
The Bulls are leading the competition with 20 points while the Blues are languishing in fifth, with just one outright win from their four games this season.
Left-arm swing bowler Josh Lalor and leg-spinner Adam Zampa are the additions to the NSW squad, replacing Starc and Trent Copeland, who is recovering from ankle ligament damage caused when he tripped on steps at the SCG.
The NSW team has a strong Canberra flavour, with Queanbeyan product Haddin and David Dawson having retained their spots.
Queensland have three players with Australian experience in their team - batsmen Usman Khawaja and Peter Forrest and off-spinner Nathan Hauritz.
Lehmann said former one-day international all-rounder James Hopes could return from a knee injury for next Sunday's Ryobi Cup match at Manuka Oval.
''At a push he could play this game, but we're going to give him another week,'' Lehmann said. ''We're just playing it by ear at the moment.''
■ NSW SQUAD
Team to play Queensland in the Sheffield Shield match at Manuka Oval from November 27-30: Stephen O'Keefe (captain), Doug Bollinger, David Dawson, Brad Haddin, Josh Hazlewood, Moises Henriques, Scott Henry, Josh Lalor, Nic Maddinson, Peter Nevill, Steve Smith, Adam Zampa.