Disgraced Australian test captain Tim Paine will make his long awaited return to first class cricket with Tasmania in the Sheffield Shield on Thursday.
Paine, 37, has been named in a 13-man squad to take on Queensland at Allan Border Field in Albion.
After stepping down as Australian skipper last November following a sexting scandal with one-time Cricket Tasmania employee Renee Ferguson, some feared the wicketkeeper would be lost to the sport for good.
There were also concerns surrounding Paine’s mental health after the saga – which unfolded privately in 2017 – went public.
The matter was investigated by Cricket Australia the following year after Ferguson complained – but Paine was cleared of misconduct at the time.
Before his fall from grace, Paine had led the Aussie team admirably since the Sandpapergate ball-tampering scandal in South Africa back in 2018.
Following his shock appointment, Paine was painted as the saviour of Australian cricket after captain Steve Smith and vice-captain David Warner were both suspended for 12 months for bringing the sport into disrepute.
Opening batsman Cameron Bancroft served a nine-month ban.
Eyeing off an emotional return following a 11-month hiatus, Paine, a married father of two, has kept his eye in recently by turning out for University in Tasmanian club cricket.
‘He’s been training with us most sessions the last five or six weeks,’ Tasmania head coach Justin Vaughan said.
‘Physically he’s going well, emotionally going well. I’m sure everyone would agree that we trust his wicketkeeping skill set and his leadership skill set.’
Paine is said to be in ‘exceptional physical shape’ and may also turn out in the Big Bash this summer, with the Hobart Hurricanes the early favourites for his signature.
His world came crashing down last year after details emerged of the explicit texts, including a picture of his genitals, with Ferguson.
In one exchange, Paine allegedly wrote: ‘Will you want to taste my d**?? F**k me, I’m seriously h***.’
Another text read ‘need to ease the tension…finish me off with those lips then.’
In August, Ferguson fronted Hobart Magistrates Court over stealing allegations.
Police allege Ferguson stole $5600 from Cricket Tasmania, where she worked from 2015 to 2017.
Ms Ferguson denied the charges, and is suing Cricket Tasmania over allegations she was subjected to sexual harassment by multiple employees, including Paine.
Both matters are ongoing.