Veteran batsman Ed Cowan, last season’s leading Sheffield Shield run-scorer, has been squeezed out of a star-studded NSW side for the opening round of the competition starting this week.
Australian captain Steve Smith and vice-captain David Warner are among five Ashes certainties named in the 12-man squad to face South Australia in a pink-ball clash at Adelaide Oval beginning on Friday.
Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Nathan Lyon will lead an imposing bowling attack as they prepare for next month’s first Test in Brisbane.
But there was no room for 35-year-old Cowan, who piled up 959 runs at 73.77 in 2016-17.
The Blues instead backed in-form left-handed batsman Daniel Hughes in what coach Trent Johnston described as the toughest decision of his tenure.
“We had to weigh up past form with current form,” Johnston said on Monday.
“Ed has been outstanding during the Sheffield Shield over the past two seasons and has an excellent record against the pink ball.
“Daniel Hughes has been in terrific form during the JLT Cup so there were lengthy discussions.
“Finally we decided to go with Dan in that last batting spot. It wasn’t easy.”
Nic Maddinson, Moises Henriques, Kurtis Patterson and wicketkeeper Peter Nevill will be among the Blues looking to put their name forward for Ashes selection.
Test paceman Josh Hazlewood will miss the Shield opener as he continues to recover from a side strain suffered during Australia’s tour of Bangladesh.
Veteran spinner Steve O’Keefe is expected to miss the first three Shield rounds after breaking his finger during a grade cricket game.
NSW 12-man squad: Steve Smith (capt), Sean Abbott, Trent Copeland, Pat Cummins, Moises Henriques, Daniel Hughes, Nathan Lyon, Nic Maddinson, Peter Nevill, Kurtis Patterson, Mitchell Starc, David Warner.