Sheffield Shield 2015-16
Explained: Shield final venues and scenarios
Five teams, four possible venues, two finalists and one host: all to play for in the final round of the Shield
8 March 2016, 07:44 PM AEST
The Sheffield Shield is headed for a gripping finale after a dramatic penultimate round opened up a range of possibilities for the final and set up an intriguing last three matches.
Victories to second-placed Queensland against top-of-the-table Victoria, to New South Wales against Tasmania and South Australia against Western Australia means that there are four possible Shield final venues as well five possible participants. The bonus points system introduced last season has helped orchestrate a thrilling denoument to the season.
The Commonwealth Bank Bushrangers, myFootDr Queensland Bulls, NSW Blues and West End Redbacks could all finish top and get the hosting rights for the final. Conversely, if results go against them, each of those teams could just as easily miss the final completely.
The bonus point system means Western Australia are still a mathematical chance of making the final. In fact, the uncapped nature of the batting bonus points means even Tasmania could still theoretically make the grade. The Tigers would simply need to win outright, ensuring they take nine South Australian wickets inside 100 overs in their first bowling innings and score the small matter of at least 1,448 runs in the first 100 overs of their first batting innings. And then hope other results go their way.
By comparison, Western Australia's predicament seems straightforward. The Alcohol.Think Again Western Warriors need to score at least 399 in the first 100 overs of their first innings against Queensland, and take nine Bulls wickets in the first 100 overs of their first bowling innings, restrict Queensland from scoring any bonus points of their own, complete the outright win, and hope Victoria and Tasmania also win. If all that happens, the Warriors could sneak into second spot.
Warriors coach Justin Langer isn't holding out much hope.
"Pretty much the feeling in the camp is it is season over," he said after play at the WACA today.
"Let's be realistic about it. Even if we'd won today, I'm not sure we're singing the team song tonight, even though we'd have a sniff.
"The way we performed this morning, conceding 90 runs in the first hour, it's not good enough to win the Sheffield Shield."
Complicating matters even further is the fact the home grounds of Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia will all be unavailable for the final.
The Bushrangers have nominated Traegar Park, Alice Springs as their alternate venue, C.ex Coffs International Stadium in Coffs Harbour has been approved as the Blues' ground while the Redbacks will host the final at Gliderol Stadium, Glenelg on the outside chance they finish top. The Gabba is available to Queensland should they finish top.
Below, we take a look at the final round of matches, the venues and the possible scenarios for the Shield final.
Sheffield Shield - round ten fixture (March 15 – 18)
Queensland v Western Australia at the Gabba, Brisbane
South Australia v Tasmania at Gliderol Stadium, Glenelg
Victoria v New South Wales at Traeger Park, Alice Springs
Sheffield Shield final - 26 March - 30 March
1st place v 2nd place (venue TBD)
Possible Sheffield Shield final venues
Traegar Park, Alice Springs
With the redevelopment of the Junction Oval not yet complete and the MCG unavailable, the Bushrangers don't have an alternate ground approved to host first-class cricket in the state of Victoria.
A similar situation last season resulted in the Bushrangers playing a 'home' Shield final in Hobart, where they prevailed over Western Australia.
If they finish top this season, Victoria will travel to Alice Springs to host the final, where they played two matches last year – winning both – and are due to face NSW there next week.
Peter Handscomb, stand-in captain for Victoria's recent Shield game against Queensland, said that while they'd prefer to host the final in their own state, he believes their experience at Traeagar Park will hold them in good stead.
"We'd love our own ground and our own supporters coming to help us," he said last week.
"But we've been to Alice Springs before and we know what it can do there. The local people there are great, they've been awesome for us (in the past).
"We played the Shield final last year in Hobart so we know we can travel and know we can win, so we're pretty confident.
Possible final combinations for Traegar Park:
Victoria v Queensland or New South Wales or South Australia or Western Australia
The Bushrangers control their fate. If they win against NSW in Alice Springs with at least 2.05 bonus points, they'll return to Traegar Park to host the Shield final and could face any of the other teams in the competition (excluding wooden-spooners Tasmania).
If the Vics win with less than 2.05 bonus points, Queensland could overtake them on the ladder but the Bushrangers wouldn't drop any lower than second.
The Gabba, Brisbane
The Gabba has been a happy hunting ground for the Bulls this season.
They've won convincingly in all three of their home games there this year, defeating South Australia by an innings and 14 runs, Tasmania by seven wickets and just yesterday, Victoria by 100 runs.
Queensland played their other home game in Mackay and lost to New South Wales by three wickets.
With 16 wickets and two half-centuries in four hits at the ground, veteran allrounder James Hopes has had an excellent season on his traditional home patch.
And with their upcoming match against WA also being played at the Gabba, Queensland will go into the final round of the Shield season full of confidence.
Possible final combinations for the Gabba:
Queensland v New South Wales or Victoria or South Australia
If Victoria lose, draw or win with less than 2.05 bonus points and Queensland prevail over the Warriors, the Bulls could pinch top spot and host the final in Brisbane. They would most likely face the Blues at the Gabba, but the Bushrangers are also a chance to be the away team, as are the Redbacks if they win and there's a draw in the VIC-NSW game.
C.ex Coffs International Stadium, Coffs Harbour
Coffs Harbour saw first-class cricket for the first time when New South Wales hosted South Australia at C.ex Coffs International Stadium last month.
With the SCG unavailable for the Shield final, the match was somewhat of a trial run for the ground.
Cricket Australia gave its approval for the venue to host the final following the match that saw the Blues record a come-from-behind victory, with Ben Rohrer making a crucial final-innings century.
The game was scheduled on the NSW mid north coast as a tribute to the late Phillip Hughes, who was from nearby Macksville and represented both NSW and South Australia.
Possible final combinations for Coffs Harbour:
New South Wales v Victoria or Queensland or South Australia
NSW need two things to go right for them to host the final. Firstly, they need to defeat Victoria in Alice Springs. Then, they would need Queensland to either lose to or draw with WA, or win with less than 1.47 bonus points.
The Blues' opponent in Coffs could be any of the other current top-four sides.
Gliderol Stadium, Glenelg
With the Adelaide Oval unavailable, South Australia play their final game against Tasmania at Gliderol Stadium where they will also host the final if they manage to grab top spot.
The Redbacks have hosted a number of Shield games at the ground in recent years and India played a tour match against a Cricket Australia XI at the Glenelg ground in 2014.
Possible final combinations for Gliderol Stadium:
South Australia v New South Wales or Queensland or Victoria
The Redbacks are an outside hope of hosting the Shield final. To do it, they'd need to beat Tasmania, and score a score a huge amount of runs in their first-innings in quick time and hope the other two Shield games are low-scoring draws, or both.
With this Shield season proving to be a topsy-turvy one, you couldn't write it off.