Bulls chasing back-to-back Shield titles

Dean Burns

Reigning Sheffield Shield champions Queensland have no plans of experiencing a premiership hangover this season, setting their sights firmly on lifting the coveted four-day title once again this March. Chris-Hartley_QLD-bulls

The squad has been bolstered for the 2012-2013 season by the recruitment of three interstate players with international experience, as well as retaining coach Darren Lehmann despite widespread interest in the Bulls’ mentor from both interstate and overseas.

Former Australia off-spinner Nathan Hauritz has returned from NSW, on the back of a successful return to the state last season with the Brisbane Heat in the Twenty20 Big Bash League.

Hauritz began his career in Queensland but left for NSW in 2006 to pursue greater opportunities in first class cricket.

Batsman Usman Khawaja has also moved north from NSW this season to push his claims for an Australian recall, after being dumped from the Test side last summer following Australia’s infamous loss to New Zealand in Hobart.

Bulls’ vice-captain and wicketkeeper Chris Hartley said he thought both NSW imports would play an important role in all formats of the game this summer, and emphasised the international experience the players brought to the side.

“We’re expecting those two to be fairly dominant for us this season,” Hartley said.

He said having another class spinner in the squad to accompany leg-spinner Cameron Boyce would be an asset to Queensland’s bowling group, which is traditionally dominated by fast bowlers.

“Nathan [Hauritz] brings a lot of experience, he’s played Test cricket.

“Cam Boyce as a leg-spinner did well last year, and Nathan as the off-spinner, it gives us depth in our bowling ranks and our spin bowling ranks.”

Hartley said he also believed Khawaja would bring vital strength to the top of the Bulls’ batting order.

“Khawaja is a huge talent, he’ll be keen to test himself out at the Gabba where it is difficult to bat at times,” he said.

“He’s a class act, we’ve seen that, he’s played well against us before, he’s played Test cricket.”

Entertaining limited overs player Luke Pomersbach has also signed with Queensland, moving from Western Australia to seek a fresh start to his career after a series of off-field indiscretions following his single Twenty20 appearance for Australia in 2007.

Also joining the Bulls’ senior squad this season is newly elevated rookie Cameron Gannon.

The fast bowler played four one-day games and one Sheffield Shield match for the Bulls last season, and said being around the squad’s group of experienced bowlers had benefitted his game.

“They’ve been incredible and helpful for me personally in overcoming some technical issues,” Gannon said.

“It’s always good to have a bunch of really experienced fast bowlers around to help you through patches where you’re lacking that confidence you need to participate and compete at the higher level.”

Hartley also said coach Darren Lehmann had been invaluable to the side in their preparations for this season’s title defence.

“Boof [Lehmann] has been excellent, a lot has been said about how well he’s done in his first few seasons,” Hartley said.

“He gets to know the players as people, which I think is very important, and makes the game very fun.

“This winter has been big for us and we’ve got our goal firmly set on going back-to-back this season.”

The other Australia representatives in the Bulls’ squad this season are batsman Peter Forrest and injury-prone fast bowler Ryan Harris.

Forrest and Harris, along with Bulls youngsters Joe Burns, Ben Cutting and Alister McDermott, will be looking for strong first-class performances to put themselves into contention for international appearances this season.

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