The first four rounds of Australia’s men’s first-class competition will be held in South Australia in October an November.
The Marsh Sheffield Shield will break new ground in its 119th season as Cricket Australia (CA) confirmed the first four rounds will be held entirely across four venues in Adelaide from next month.
Test stars including Marnus Labuschagne, Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon and Matthew Wade are expected to feature as the domestic summer kicks off on October 10, with matches to be played at Karen Rolton Oval, Park 25, Adelaide Oval No.2 and Glenelg.
With South Australia government regulations forcing all Victorian arrivals into 14-day quarantine, Victoria and reigning champions New South Wales have agreed to postpone their ’round one’ game to November 17.
Those states’ first game will instead be played against each other on Adelaide Oval’s secondary ground from October 22 after Victoria’s squad of approximately 18 players travel from Melbourne on a chartered flight on October 5 and serve their 14-day quarantine in the Adelaide Oval hotel.
The other states will play their final matches in Adelaide from November 8-11, with the men’s Big Bash and India’s tour of Australia both scheduled to begin in December (though both remain subject to change).
A host of big-name Australia players like Steve Smith, David Warner, Pat Cummins and Glenn Maxwell will be missing from the opening Shield rounds as they take part in the ongoing Indian Premier League in the United Arab Emirates.
But Shield teams could welcome back players without IPL deals who featured in the recent limited-overs tour to England – Starc, Labuschagne, Wade, Lyon, Sean Abbott, Riley Meredith, Ashton Agar and Kane Richardson – for the initial stages of the Shield.
Those players are currently serving quarantine at the new Adelaide Oval hotel.
CA also said Thursday it hoped Western Australia captain Mitch Marsh, who is set to fly home from the IPL due to an ankle injury, will be able to play in the Shield.
While Australia coach Justin Langer expects minimal changes to his Test side that will have gone close to 12 months without a game, the early Sheffield Shield rounds will provide ample opportunities for players to demand inclusion to face India (and Afghanistan, if the scheduled Test against the emerging nation goes ahead) this summer.
“If someone’s banging so hard on the door (in the Sheffield Shield) that we can’t ignore them, that’s what we’re looking for,” Langer, who is also in quarantine in Adelaide, said on Monday.
“In our mind it’s pretty clear at the moment what that first Test squad would be, but it’s exciting to see if anyone else is going to put their hand up.”
All states have been completing regular pre-season preparations in recent months. Victoria’s elite players have been permitted to continue training despite living with stricter lockdown measures in place than other states.
CA is planning to stage a full Sheffield Season, comprising of 10 home-and-away games plus a five-day final. It said in a media release that the remaining Shield games, as well the Marsh One-Day Cup, will be played in 2021.
The first four rounds of the competition will be played in line with SA government regulations and COVID safety guidelines.
“The Marsh Sheffield Shield is an incredibly strong competition and for generations has been a crucial factor in the success of the Australian men’s team,” CA’s interim chief executive Nick Hockley said.
“It is the envy of cricketing countries throughout the world. We would like to thank the South Australian government for their willingness to work together to deliver these fixtures
“Many people have worked incredibly hard to arrive at this outcome, whilst recognising that player and staff safety and wellbeing remains the priority and having government restrictions in place to keep the community safe from COVID-19.”
2020-21 MARSH SHEFFIELD SHIELD FIXTURE
October 10-13: South Australia v Western Australia, Karen Rolton Oval
October 10-13: Queensland v Tasmania, Park 25
*November 17-20: New South Wales v Victoria, TBC
October 19-22: South Australia v Tasmania, Karen Rolton Oval
October 19-22: Western Australia v Queensland, Park 25
October 22-25: Victoria v New South Wales, Adelaide Oval No. 2
October 30-November 2: New South Wales v Western Australia, Karen Rolton Oval
October 30-November 2: Victoria v Tasmania, Park 25
October 30-November 2: South Australia v Queensland, ACH Group Stadium, Glenelg
November 8-11: Queensland v Victoria, Karen Rolton Oval
November 8-11: Western Australia v Tasmania, Park 25
November 8-11: South Australia v NSW, ACH Group Stadium, Glenelg