JLT Sheffield Shield 2017-18

All six teams still alive in race for Shield final

Queensland open up big lead at the top but less than five points separate second from last on Shield ladder

Martin Smith

28 February 2018, 05:17 PM AEST

Queensland are in pole position to host the JLT Sheffield Shield final after they opened up an eight-point lead at the top of the table with victory over South Australia on Wednesday.

But with two rounds remaining and less than five points separating second from last on the ladder, all six teams remain in contention to play in the season decider in late March.

The big winners from round eight this week were the Bulls and Victoria; Queensland picked up 8.42 points in their win over the Redbacks to move 8.23 clear at the top. They will all but secure a spot in the final if they win one of their remaining two games.

The defending champions, meanwhile, earned almost nine points – equivalent to one-and-a-half wins – with a thumping victory over Western Australia that saw them jump from last to second on the table.

Finch hammers 151no from 122 balls in Perth

The Bushrangers, according to WA coach Justin Langer, "bullied" the Warriors in Perth to earn 8.92 points ahead of their return to Junction Oval this week for their clash against NSW.

The win has breathed life into their quest for a record fourth-straight title, but the fact they remain just 4.95 points ahead of last place underlines how tight the Shield ladder is.

The Vics will host the Blues from Saturday, with NSW still chasing their first win after the mid-season break having managed only a draw and two losses since the season resumed.

In other round nine games, South Australia will travel to Hobart to take on Tasmania while the wounded Warriors will head to Brisbane to face the in-form Bulls.

Doggett delights with maiden five-wicket haul

The third-placed Tigers are four points ahead of the Redbacks (who are last) but both will likely need a win next week to have any chance of making the final, while the Bulls can all but secure hosting rights if they beat WA.

Conversely, the Warriors would turn the competition on its head if they can produce an upset at the Gabba, which would both bring the Bulls back to the pack and give them an outside chance of finishing in the top two.

The great unknown when attempting to predict how the season will end, is the complex bonus-point system, which sees teams earn a bonus of 0.01 points for every run scored above 200 within the first 100 overs of their innings, and a bonus 0.1 for each wicket they take within the first 100 overs.

And as the Bushrangers showed this week with their huge leap up the standings, thanks to six points for the outright win and a 2.92 bonus, anything is possible.

Speedster Neser picks up 4-1 in just 19 balls

WINNERS & LOSERS FROM ROUND EIGHT

Queensland: Gained 8.42 points, stayed first Victoria: Gained 8.92 points, rose from sixth to second Tasmania: Gained 2.30 points, dropped from second to third NSW Blues: Gained 3.25 points, dropped from third to fourth Western Australia: Gained 2.02 points, stayed fifth South Australia: Gained 0.90 points, dropped from fourth to sixth

ROUND NINE

Victoria v NSW Blues (March 3-6)

Tasmania v South Australia (March 5-8)

Queensland v Western Australia (March 6-9

ROUND TEN

NSW Blues v Queensland (March 14-17)

Tasmania v Victoria (March 14-17)

South Australia v Western Australia (March 14-17)