Marsh Sheffield Shield 2021-22
Pink ball shift continues as domestic schedule is confirmed
Cricket Australia explains the move away from day-night Shield cricket as it confirms the men's domestic schedule will run from September 11 until March 30
21 July 2021, 03:07 PM AEST
Australia will have no day-night match practice ahead of this summer's pink-ball Ashes Test in Adelaide, with day-night first-class games absent from the domestic schedule for the fourth season in a row.
Cricket Australia finalised its men's and women's domestic schedules today, with the Marsh Sheffield Shield returning to a full home-and-away season after it was shortened last summer due to the pandemic.
Each state will also play seven Marsh One-Day Cup games before the final on February 27, while the Women's National Cricket League remains a 29-game season to be played in four blocks of seven games.
The schedules for the men's and women's Big Bash Leagues were announced earlier this month.
The domestic season is scheduled to begin in less than eight weeks, with two full rounds of the Marsh Cup from September 11-16, which could allow Australia's white-ball stars to take part before they fly out for the T20 World Cup.
It remains to be seen how COVID-19 restrictions and border closures will impact the schedule.
As reported yesterday, the Shield season will begin on September 28, its second earliest start in history, and feature five full rounds before Australia's Vodafone Men’s Test against Afghanistan in late November.
The sixth Shield round before the mid-season break will be played concurrently with that Test, while an Australia A match against the touring Englishmen will be played at the same time as the first Vodafone Ashes Test at the Gabba on December 8-12.
But for a fourth consecutive season, there are no day-night matches on the Shield schedule, even though the second Ashes Test in Adelaide will be played under lights.
There was at least one day-night Shield round for five seasons between 2013-14 and 2017-18, and in recent years, some of Australia's Test players have had pink-ball preparation via 'A' games.
But Cricket Australia is confident the previous Shield experience, plus Australia's 100 per cent record in day-night Tests, is adequate preparation for the Adelaide Test.
Peter Roach, CA's Head of Operations, said he's been surprised by the lack of enthusiasm in other countries to play day-night Tests since the very first was played in Australia in 2015, but that trend has made playing Shield games under lights less important.
"A few years ago, there was this unknown and we needed to really pour it down people's throats," Roach told cricket.com.au. "But there doesn't seem to be that need anymore.
"That's a yearly watch to make sure our players have had enough access to playing with the pink ball. But at this stage we're pretty comfortable with the schedule that's planned with all day games.
"(In recent years) it was pretty unanimous that we needed to get some consistency back into our Shield cricket. At that stage we were looking at the Dukes ball, the pink ball and the red Kookaburra and there was a push, a couple of years ago, to make it a little bit more traditional and consistent. So we've reverted back to the (red) Kookaburra ball (for all games).
"Five years ago, we would have expected a lot more day-night Test cricket around the world because of the success we had on our shores. But that hasn't happened, so it's become less of a need to prepare our players because it's really only the odd series that has it."
Pending COVID restrictions, Shield cricket is scheduled to be played in all six states as well as one game at Manuka Oval in Canberra, with Queensland to take their home games to Townsville and the new Ian Healy Oval in Brisbane due to the redevelopment of Allan Border Field.
The Shield final will be played on March 26-30 and be broadcast on Fox Cricket and Kayo Sports. Foxtel will also broadcast 13 Marsh Cup games, including the final, while broadcast and live streaming details for the remaining domestic matches will be announced later in the year.
Roach added he was comfortable with the 22-game Marsh Cup schedule, despite recent criticism from Australia's ODI captain, Aaron Finch, that the scarcity of 50-over domestic cricket means Australia is falling behind other nations.
The one-day cup hasn't been played as a full home-and-away season in a decade and Roach is confident the balance of the current schedule, with 31 Shield games and 22 one-dayers to go with a full home-and-away KFC BBL, is the right one, especially once easier international travel allows for the return of full 'A' series at home and abroad.
"I haven't heard that thrust coming through from our national teams and our states, that we're becoming deficient in one-day cricket," he said.
"That's not to say it's not true, but we take on feedback from our high performance managers ... and it hasn't been pushed, to say, 'Is there a better way we can do this and play more one-day cricket?'.
"There's lots of ways to prepare players for international cricket. With this pandemic, there's been a lot less A tours ... we'd hope to get that going again (after the pandemic). But it's a balance – is that a better way than playing more domestic games?
"You don't just look insular at that, if other countries are doing it better (we also look at that)."