Top run-scorer Usman Khawaja (Qld) has been ruled out of Friday’s one-day cup preliminary final against NSW by a finger fracture.

Holders Queensland are hit hard by the loss of top run-scorer Usman Khawaja while Test allrounder Shane Watson makes a timely return for NSW in Friday’s interstate one-day Cup preliminary final.

The two big-name changes threaten to have a major impact on the Blacktown Sportspark battle for the right to meet WA in Sunday’s final at the SCG.

Watson has been selected for the Blues after making a successful club cricket comeback from the calf muscle and ankle injuries that ruled him out of Australia’s tour to Zimbabwe and the current series against Pakistan in the UAE.

The Bulls will have to find a new opener after Khawaja underwent surgery on Thursday for a finger fracture suffered while compiling a second consecutive century in Wednesday’s one-run win over WA.

The former Australia No.3 leads the Cup run-scoring with 523 runs at 74.71, while fellow Bulls opener Chris Hartley has hit 400 runs at 66.67.

The pair have been a major part of Queensland’s success in achieving five wins from seven matches, having set a domestic one-day cup partnership record of 280 last Saturday against Tasmania.

Queensland captain James Hopes admitted the loss of Khawaja was a major blow.

“It is a shame and that will be a substantial hole to fill,” said Hopes.

“They (Khawaja and Hartley) have laid a platform for us all season, and did the same thing last year. When they do that and our hitters get in, we normally do well.”

It’s not Hopes’ only concern.

“Our bowling has been scratchy to be honest,” Hopes said. “We haven’t quite found the right combination, which is not the right thing to be saying when we are eight games into the tournament.

“We have chopped and changed with the new ball, though we have played in a lot of varying conditions.

“You would like to think by now we would be close to having our options sorted at the death (of the innings).”

The return of Watson is a lift for a NSW side that has hit an unexpected speed bump over the past week.

The Blues were leading the competition a week ago with four wins from as many starts, only to suffer successive defeats against Victoria and Tasmania and slip to third.

NSW also lost in-form all-rounder Moises Henriques to injury during the two-run defeat to Victoria, with the Blues skipper to miss up to six weeks with a calf problem.

NSW have inflicted Queensland’s only two defeats during the season, winning by four and five wickets in Brisbane a fortnight ago.

“They (Queensland) have played well and we know it will be a tough contest,” said NSW opener Nic Maddinson. “We know they will come at us hard.”

Australia U-19 representative Ben McDermott, younger brother of Bulls fast bowler Alister McDermott and son of former Test quick Craig McDermott, has been drafted into the squad to replace Khawaja.