The opening round of the 2016-17 Sheffield Shield season will again be played under lights, while the domestic first-class action will head to Townsville, Wollongong and Alice Springs this summer.
Cricket Australia has today released its domestic one-day and first-class fixtures, with the Sheffield Shield again structured to help players prepare for cricket at an international level.
The 2016-17 Sheffield Shield season will kick off on Tuesday, October 25, in a round of day-night matches with the pink kookaburra at the Gabba, WACA and MCG, ahead of this summer's day-night Test matches against South Africa in Adelaide and Pakistan in Brisbane.
The opening round will see the MyFootDr Queensland Bulls host New South Wales in a match that could see many of the Australian Test team get a taste of the Gabba conditions under lights in the build-up to the venue's first day-night Test against Pakistan in December.
Other matches being played under lights in the opening round see reigning champions the Commonwealth Bank Bushrangers host Tasmania at the MCG and the Alcohol.Think Again Western Warriors meet the West End Redbacks at the WACA.
A second round of day-night Shield matches will be held from December 5-8, with games played at the WACA, Adelaide Oval and Blundstone Arena.
Townsville will host a Shield match this season, with Queensland to meet Western Australia at Tony Ireland Stadium from November 29.
It will continue a busy year for the venue, which will also feature heavily alongside Mackay in the Australia A winter quadrangular series, which kicks off next month.
Wollongong also joins in the Shield action, playing host to New South Wales and Tasmania from February 25, while the first-class action will again return to Alice Springs, with the Bushrangers to meet WA in the final round of the season from March 8-11.
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Queensland coach Phil Jaques, who was born in Wollongong, welcomed the move to bring more Sheffield Shield cricket to regional centres.
"The concept is great. There's a lot of really good facilities in regional Australia and we've got some really good ones here in our state," Jaques told cricket.com.au.
"The more we can grow the game in those regional areas, and keep interest high, the better Australian cricket is going to be – so I think it's crucial to the future of the game.
"We've got quite a big population in rural Queensland and to be able to play some games out there and look after the fans out in the bush, I think it's a really good idea.
"The boys really enjoy going out into regional centres, to help grow the game and play some Shield cricket in front of some crowds, which will be good. I'm not sure how many of the guys have played in Townsville so we'll likely be in the same boat as WA in that regard.
"(Wollongong) have had some good turnouts in the past down there when they've taken games there and I expect it'll be the same again."
The Shield season will again be split into two blocks on either side of the KFC Big Bash League.
"We continue to play all our domestic formats in dedicated blocks of cricket so we can devote attention to growth in every format," Cricket Australia's Executive General Manager Team Performance Pat Howard said.
"The way the schedule has been structured also reinforces the significant role our domestic competitions play in helping players prepare for cricket at the international level.
"From the high level of competition in the Matador BBQs One-Day Cup to start the summer, to day-night rounds in the Sheffield Shield, we want our players to have the skills to succeed not just domestically but at the highest level against international opponents."
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Following a successful trial in the past two seasons, a bonus points system will again be in place for the 2016-17 season, albeit with a minor tweak to ensure greater balance between bowling and batting.
This summer, there will be 0.1 bonus points awarded for every wicket taken in the first 100 overs of an innings (for a maximum of 1.0 points per innings), in a change from the previous last season, which saw 0.5 points awarded for the fifth, seventh and ninth wickets, for a maximum of 1.5 points.
Earlier this year CA revealed Dukes cricket balls would be used in the second half of this summer's Sheffield Shield.
Used for international cricket in the UK, the Dukes ball will feature in all Shield matches from rounds six to 10 as well as the final.
During the first half of the season players will continue using the locally-made Kookaburra as they prepare for Test matches in Australian conditions where it is the ball of choice.
Former Victoria head coach and newly appointed Australia assistant coach David Saker said he had mixed feelings about the introduction of the Dukes.
"A lot has been made of the Dukes moving around, but I think it's more the English conditions that make the ball move around a bit," Saker said.
"I think it's a good initiative to see what happens – they might play really well and they might find another ball to use in Australia.
"But I really think it comes down to the conditions rather than the ball."
The Bushrangers won last season's Shield final at Glenelg's Gliderol Stadium, defeating the Redbacks by seven wickets to claim their fourth title in eight years.