The New South Wales Blues have been declared Sheffield Shield champions for 2019-20 after Cricket Australia cancelled the final and all other organised cricket as part of its response to coronavirus.
The Sheffield Shield final has had four draws in the last six years, and Cricket Australia have tinkered with the rules to avoid a repeat when the 2018-19 final gets underway on Thursday between Victoria and New South Wales at the Junction Oval.
In a bid to stop the home team providing a flat, lifeless pitch and attempting to bat for five days and draw the match, bonus points will now come into the equation under the system which has been used for the past couple of regular seasons.
If the match lasts 270 overs or more – the equivalent of three full days of cricket – the side which has gained more bonus points in the game will be crowned champions.
Of course, if either team achieves an outright result, that will stand and bonus points won’t come into it.
The system will be the same as the one used throughout the season.
In the first 100 overs of the first innings for each side, 0.01 points will be awarded for each run scored past 200, and 0.1 points will be awarded for every wicket taken.
Essentially, it rewards aggressive cricket within the first hundred overs. If a team scored 400, they’d have two whole bonus points, plus whatever they earned for their bowling effort.
Here is how the last drawn final in 2017 would have played out if the bonus points system was in effect, to give an example of the system.
Victoria: 487 (166.2) and 323 (122.5) defeat South Australia: 287 (84.3) and 6/236 (65)
Taking the first innings into account only, Victoria were 6 for 349 after 100 overs, while South Australia were all out in 84.3.
It means Victoria would have received 1.49 bonus points for their batting, and 1 for their bowling. South Australia, on the other hand, would have received 0.6 for bowling, and just 0.87 for their batting, meaning Victoria would have been well ahead.
However, the game would probably be played differently under these changed rules.
Cricket Australia head of operations Peter Roach said it should provide a much more exciting final.
“We wished to ensure the match is a fitting finale to our marquee men’s domestic competition,” said Roach.
“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 forecast for Melbourne is luckily pretty good for most of the five days, with the only real threat of rain hanging around on Day 2 (Friday).
If rain does intervene, then the bonus points system only becomes applicable after 270 overs of cricket have been completed.
The Sheffield Shield final gets underway at 10:30am (AEDT) on Thursday, March 28.