JLT Sheffield Shield 2018-19
Shield final overhauled and the runner returns
Bonus points to decide Shield final in case of a drawn match; new heat policy also introduced for 2018-19 season
Martin Smith & Louis Cameron
13 September 2018, 01:58 PM AEST
The Sheffield Shield final is set for its first major shake-up in more than three decades after Cricket Australia tweaked the rules of the five-day climax to the domestic season.
Since the 1982-83 summer, the team that has finished on top of the regular season standings has only needed to draw the Shield final at their home ground to claim the silverware. This has often led to the home team opting to prepare a flat pitch in order to secure a draw and win the title, leading to many slow-moving and anti-climactic draws to finish the season.
But under new rules announced on Thursday that will be trialled this season, the 'winner' of a drawn final will be determined by a bonus-points system.
In matches that last at least 270 overs, each team will receive 0.01 'points' for each run scored above 200 in the first 100 overs of their first innings, and 0.1 for each wicket within 100 overs of their opponents' first innings. This is the same bonus-points system used during the Shield's regular season.
For example if, say, Victoria and NSW make this year's final and Victoria are bowled out for 350 after 90 overs in their first innings and NSW are then bowled out for 300 in 90 overs in their first innings, Victoria will win be crowned champions if the match finishes in a draw having accrued 2.5 points to NSW's 2 points.
Four of the past six Shield finals have been drawn and only six of the 36 finals have been won by the second-placed side.
The Shield final has been live streamed on Cricket Network in recent seasons, but will be broadcast on Fox Sports for the next six years as part of Cricket Australia's new deal with the network.
While many players attest to the Shield final being the closest thing to Test cricket the domestic game can offer, few (some notable exceptions aside) of the season deciders have been gripping spectacles.
"We wished to ensure the match is a fitting finale to our marquee men’s domestic competition," CA's head of cricket operations Peter Roach said.
"The previous rule ... was not consistent with how this competition is generally played.
"The rule will be trialled this year, and we believe it will encourage the teams involved to push for a result and improve the spectacle in the tournament’s showcase match."
The overhaul of the Shield final is one of a number of changes that will be introduced for the 2018-19 domestic summer of cricket, with runners for injured batters to make a return.
Runners were banned from international cricket by the ICC in 2011 due to a rise in batters calling for a teammate to run for them when they were suffering from cramp rather than an injury. Runners will now be permitted in Australian domestic matches at the fall of the ninth wicket, allowing for a genuinely injured player to continue their innings while minimising the chance of exacerbating their injury.
Matches in the Women's National Cricket League will now be played with two new balls from the start of each innings, "a relatively simple decision" that brings the competition into line with regulations in one-day international cricket.
An official heat policy has also been introduced, allowing for the suspension or cancellation of matches in extreme weather. But Roach added that longer and more frequent drinks breaks would be a more likely option to counter heat at the height of summer.
"Historic weather data shows us that (cancellation or suspension of matches) is unlikely for senior domestic cricket," he said.
"The real benefit will be the guidance it provides on when additional or longer drinks breaks should be incorporated into a day's play.
"The main priority of the heat policy is to provide options to our match officials to maximise play in extreme heat, but at all times placing the health and safety of our participants as the highest priority."
The changes have been recommended by the Playing Conditions Advisory Committee, a panel featuring players, umpires and administrators including Roach, Tasmania skipper George Bailey, Victoria women’s vice-captain Molly Strano - acting on behalf of Southern Stars skipper Meg Lanning - as well as Cricket Australia board members Mark Taylor and Michael Kasprowicz.