CRICKET: Queensland Bulls coach Darren Lehmann says he believes Matthew Gale has been included in the Chairman's XI side to take on Sri Lanka next week because of his genuine wicket-taking ability.
Sunshine Coast Scorchers paceman Gale was yesterday a surprise inclusion in the side to take on the international visiting team in the three-day match in Canberra starting next Thursday.
Usman Khawaja will captain the side which is a mix of youth and experience. For Khawaja, the game will be an audition for retiring batsman Ricky Ponting's spot in the Australian Test team.
It will also give selectors a chance to closely inspect the likes of in-form Tasmanian batsman Alex Doolan, NSW's Scott Henry and Victorian all-rounder Glenn Maxwell. At 29-years-old and having just broken into the state side in the past year, Gale neither fits the mould of a project player nor is he knocking on the door of Australian selection.
It is understood the scheduling of the upcoming Big Bash competition played a part in the make up of the Chairman's XI team.
Cricket Australia has committed to making the domestic T20 competition a success and has put an emphasis on the first round of fixtures, which coincides with the Manuka Oval match.
It is believed selectors overlooked fringe Australian players who will also demand feature billing in the Big Bash, such as Phil Hughes, for Chairman's XI selection.
Lehmann said he believed Gale had been included, having proven his ability to take key wickets at a high level. "He's been great for us, he can swing it at pace and has genuine wicket taking ability," Lehmann told The Daily yesterday.
"He's worked on his strength and consistency. I think he's a guy that can take wickets for the Chairman's XI."
GALE moved to the Sunshine Coast from his home state of Victoria at the beginning of the 2011-12 season, debuting for the Bulls against Western Australia in November last year.
He has played four Sheffield Shield matches and two one-day games for Queensland.
He earned man of the match honours for the Bulls in their one-dayer against NSW last week when he returned from an unhappy opening spell to finish with 3-48 and a run out.
"To come back and take key wickets, that's what he does," Lehmann said.
"He's playing really well and he's improving and learning all the time."
XXXX Gold First Grade 2011-12 season: 10 matches, 17 wickets at 20.76.
First Class career: four matches, 15 wickets at 34.26.
List A career: two matches, three wickets at 41.33.
Representative teams: Queensland Under-23s, Victoria Under-17s, Victoria Under-19s.