Sheffield Shield 2012-13 March 27, 2013

Why the Shield final is essential

A slogging Sheffield Shield final cannot be allowed to encourage thoughts of its removal from the domestic schedule
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There isn't an element of Australian cricket that hasn't escaped the spotlight in the wake of the submission in the subcontinent. The early finish in Delhi diverted eyes to the Sheffield Shield final in Hobart.

Unfortunately for those hopeful souls at Cricket Australia, this final was not the spectacular showpiece of domestic cricket that it is often hyped as.

The first 92 overs of this final yielded just 176 runs and two wickets. The Bellerive surface, a seamer's delight for many seasons, was a fast bowler's graveyard over these five days.

The ball stayed low, slips were made redundant, scoring was difficult throughout the match, and save for a chaotic half hour on the fourth morning, the game crawled along to an uneventful draw.

Again mutterings of 'why are we here?' drifted from the broadcasters' commentary box. Should the trophy just go to the team at the top of the table at the end of the season, they asked? Do we need a neutral curator? Should it be a timeless game to avoid the home side playing for a draw?

Each argument lacks as much thought as the next.

If you think the trophy should go to the team that tops the table, then how can you complain about the significant advantages they gain in the final? Although only five teams have won away from home in Shield finals, it's five more than would have won if no final were played at all. Test cricket doesn't feature neutral curators, or timeless matches, so why should the competition that prepares players for test cricket do so? Teams play for draws in Test cricket when they fall behind early, as Australia's next opponents England did in Auckland. They also do it to protect as series lead, as England did to India before Christmas.

The reality is the Shield final is the most important match of the summer not featuring the national team. When the players were asked what they should give up for an extended Big Bash they did not hesitate in dropping two regular season one-day matches in order to preserve the finals of both competitions.

Shield finals come in all shapes and sizes. There are the low scoring arm-wrestles in seam friendly conditions, like last year's decider. There are the monstrous bat-a-thons, like when Queensland posted 900 against Victoria. And then there are the matches of attrition, slow scoring draws like this decider. Test matches come in all shapes and sizes too, on wickets and in conditions that vary widely.

But whatever the style of cricket that is played, it is a final, and it tests the character and temperament of every cricketer involved. The fact that it is televised adds extra pressure as all National selectors can view the match, as well as the cricketing public.

Stories were written about the fact that no selector was sent to this year's final. Yet the two panellists who weren't in India could watch every ball, which is more than the usual one that is posted to the ground during the season.

But most importantly it is a chance for players to shine when everything is on the line. It is easy to get soft Shield runs on flat wickets in January, or cheap wickets on green seamers in October, correction, September. But doing it March, when your state is playing for the title, should do more to prove your Test match credentials than any other performance during the season.

Justin Langer made 149 in the 1992 Shield final. He played the first of 105 Tests less than 12 months later. The Waugh brothers shared a 204-run partnership in the same WACA decider. Each made hundreds, before combining for 48 Test centuries thereafter. Adam Gilchrist made 189 in the 1996 Shield decider. He debuted in international cricket in the same year and went on to become arguably the greatest wicket-keeper batsman of all time.

It is easy to get soft Shield runs on flat wickets in January, or cheap wickets on green seamers in October, correction, September. But doing it March, when your state is playing for the title, should do more to prove your Test match credentials than any other performance during the season.

Shane Watson made 201 in the 2006 decider and Mitchell Johnson bagged 10 wickets in the same game. Phillip Hughes made hundreds in two separate Shield finals before the age of 23; one on an abrasive, slow, surface in Sydney, the other on a greener strip in Hobart. Peter Siddle took nine wickets on that grass-less surface at the SCG and debuted for Australia months later. Ed Cowan ground out a century on the same seamer at Bellerive, facing brilliant spells from Pat Cummins throughout. Cummins' next first-class fixture was a test match against South Africa in Johannesburg and he was named man-of-the-match. Cowan has subsequently made a Test century against the world number one South Africans.

In this final, a 20-year-old, Jordan Silk, announced himself by batting for more than seven hours for 108. At a time when Australian batsmen are struggling to reach three-figures, Silk joined the names of Hughes, Ricky Ponting, Chris Rogers, Brad Haddin, and Queensland's Joe Burns as the only players with multiple centuries in this Sheffield Shield season.

Likewise, 22-year-old James Faulkner scored 46, 89, and took four wickets as the Australian selectors pine for a quality all-rounder. Ryan Harris took 4 for 10 in a six over spell, including two Australian captains, on a wicket where his team had earlier failed to collect four wickets in a day.

If you axe the Sheffield Shield final, you lose these performances and these players don't get their chance to shine in the only domestic match that replicates test match conditions.

If you give up on that then the spotlight on Australian cricket won't intensify. It will simply extinguish.

Alex Malcolm is a freelance writer based in Perth

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Meety on March 27, 2013, 4:53 GMT

    Good article, the Shield Final has to stay. That pitch wasn't too far off producing a result & had the Paine/Faulkner partnership been broken early, we could of had a QLD win with a bit of time to spare. == == == The BBL must be condensed, to start AFTER XMas (preferably after NYE), & finish early enuff for teams to start playing the Shield at the end of January. There needs to be directives sent out by the Performance Manager, (that overide State iniatives), that dictate the type of pitches the National side require for the Feb/Mar National team tours. For example, pitches needed to be scraped free of any semblance of grass in anticipation for the Indian tour. (Even meaningless bilateral ODI pitches could have the same). == == == Silk certainly has to be in considerations for further development (mainly A-tour), over the next 12mths. Need to make sure that time his eventual selection right.

  • Strewth on March 30, 2013, 3:18 GMT

    @zenb As usual you hit the nail on the head cannot think of another sport where a draw gives the home team the grandfinal win. Time for cricket to grow up and make the final a fair event for both teams even to the point of a neutral ground.

  • on March 29, 2013, 12:21 GMT

    Silk should just come straight into the test side, he should go head to head with the incumbents in the warm up games. Its no use beating around the bush when you have a a very mediocre top order, you have to bring in talented youth as soon as possible. Australia will be committing suicide if they don't get this guy into the national setup as soon as possible. He is young and he will learn quicker and better around the test side

  • billabong46 on March 28, 2013, 8:59 GMT

    The problem that I have with the format of the final is that it lends itself to the home side playing for a draw from day 1. It seems illogical that the home side has to lose outright before they lose the premiership. That is akin to telling the side that finishes top in the AFL home and away series that they have to lose the grand final by 10 goals before they lose the premiership. A more logical approach surely would be for the side that finishes top in the competition to be rewarded by hosting the final. But that is the only advantage that they get. One thought is to allocate a points system and whatever side has gained the most points after the 5 days, wins. I am sick of watching boring finals where only 1 side is trying to win and the home team prepares placid low pitches to ensure that there is no outright result. It does not re-create the pressure of test cricket and it is a real leap of faith to be suggesting that it does. No wonder the attendances are so low.

  • Behind_the_bowlers_arm on March 28, 2013, 8:48 GMT

    That there is even talk about getting rid of the Shield final convinces me that some people have no understanding of why Australia is failing at Test cricket. The final is the closest thing to a Test match that domestic players can play without playing in a Test. Slow scoring .... Having to work hard .... Toughing it out ..... hmmm can see why some people would prefer a few more t20's and some increase in chicken sales at a cost of £10m a year for Cricket Australia. There should be MORE Shield cricket and everything should be done to maximise the participation of Test players in it. In addition I would add an extra team (Aust A, Development Team ....whatever , im sure CA can come up with a name) that uses young players and players not in current state teams. This team would play each state on their home ground as an 11th Shield match for each of the states. We have seen a lack of opportunities for spinners for example and younger batsmen in teams like Victoria and this could help.

  • Big_Maxy_Walker on March 28, 2013, 8:42 GMT

    silk is a talent yes, but to put him in the national side right away is ridiculous. Hes gotta earn it. As the test team has discovered, picking players who haven't earned their stripes with several good seasons of shield get found out pretty quick

  • Greatest_Game on March 28, 2013, 5:22 GMT

    @ bobagorof. You are on a sticky wicket, mate. Looking for logic in anything written by Front-Foot-Lunge is like expecting your no. 9 to top score with a half century in each innings…..err….. maybe that's a bad example. Ok, it's like expecting Warner to play a very carefully composed, cautious innings & not flash at everything in the first over! Whatever, don't look for logic wherever you find Lunge!

  • zenboomerang on March 28, 2013, 4:42 GMT

    @Alex Malcolm... The real problem is that the team leading the SS standings gets the trophy whether they win or draw - that is the problem...

    Give the Shield leader a cup - i.e. Border/Simpson Cup & the finals winner the SS Cup or shared if the final is a draw... We would see much more aggressive playing from the "home" team which is nearly always happy for a draw - as is evident by the slow start by most home teams... At present there is no incentive for a win for the home team so change that...

  • bobagorof on March 28, 2013, 3:31 GMT

    PutMarshyOn: He scored it from the middle order, too (number 4). None of this 'opening' business. Queensland collapsed after he retired hurt, though. 3 quick wickets bringing about a declaration.

  • bobagorof on March 28, 2013, 3:22 GMT

    Front-Foot-Lunge: I'm sorry, are you suggesting that the way to encourage skill among batsmen (and not just T20 hitting) is to do away with the only 5 day match played by domestic teams? I'm afraid I don't see the logic there.

  • Meety on March 27, 2013, 4:53 GMT

    Good article, the Shield Final has to stay. That pitch wasn't too far off producing a result & had the Paine/Faulkner partnership been broken early, we could of had a QLD win with a bit of time to spare. == == == The BBL must be condensed, to start AFTER XMas (preferably after NYE), & finish early enuff for teams to start playing the Shield at the end of January. There needs to be directives sent out by the Performance Manager, (that overide State iniatives), that dictate the type of pitches the National side require for the Feb/Mar National team tours. For example, pitches needed to be scraped free of any semblance of grass in anticipation for the Indian tour. (Even meaningless bilateral ODI pitches could have the same). == == == Silk certainly has to be in considerations for further development (mainly A-tour), over the next 12mths. Need to make sure that time his eventual selection right.

  • Strewth on March 30, 2013, 3:18 GMT

    @zenb As usual you hit the nail on the head cannot think of another sport where a draw gives the home team the grandfinal win. Time for cricket to grow up and make the final a fair event for both teams even to the point of a neutral ground.

  • on March 29, 2013, 12:21 GMT

    Silk should just come straight into the test side, he should go head to head with the incumbents in the warm up games. Its no use beating around the bush when you have a a very mediocre top order, you have to bring in talented youth as soon as possible. Australia will be committing suicide if they don't get this guy into the national setup as soon as possible. He is young and he will learn quicker and better around the test side

  • billabong46 on March 28, 2013, 8:59 GMT

    The problem that I have with the format of the final is that it lends itself to the home side playing for a draw from day 1. It seems illogical that the home side has to lose outright before they lose the premiership. That is akin to telling the side that finishes top in the AFL home and away series that they have to lose the grand final by 10 goals before they lose the premiership. A more logical approach surely would be for the side that finishes top in the competition to be rewarded by hosting the final. But that is the only advantage that they get. One thought is to allocate a points system and whatever side has gained the most points after the 5 days, wins. I am sick of watching boring finals where only 1 side is trying to win and the home team prepares placid low pitches to ensure that there is no outright result. It does not re-create the pressure of test cricket and it is a real leap of faith to be suggesting that it does. No wonder the attendances are so low.

  • Behind_the_bowlers_arm on March 28, 2013, 8:48 GMT

    That there is even talk about getting rid of the Shield final convinces me that some people have no understanding of why Australia is failing at Test cricket. The final is the closest thing to a Test match that domestic players can play without playing in a Test. Slow scoring .... Having to work hard .... Toughing it out ..... hmmm can see why some people would prefer a few more t20's and some increase in chicken sales at a cost of £10m a year for Cricket Australia. There should be MORE Shield cricket and everything should be done to maximise the participation of Test players in it. In addition I would add an extra team (Aust A, Development Team ....whatever , im sure CA can come up with a name) that uses young players and players not in current state teams. This team would play each state on their home ground as an 11th Shield match for each of the states. We have seen a lack of opportunities for spinners for example and younger batsmen in teams like Victoria and this could help.

  • Big_Maxy_Walker on March 28, 2013, 8:42 GMT

    silk is a talent yes, but to put him in the national side right away is ridiculous. Hes gotta earn it. As the test team has discovered, picking players who haven't earned their stripes with several good seasons of shield get found out pretty quick

  • Greatest_Game on March 28, 2013, 5:22 GMT

    @ bobagorof. You are on a sticky wicket, mate. Looking for logic in anything written by Front-Foot-Lunge is like expecting your no. 9 to top score with a half century in each innings…..err….. maybe that's a bad example. Ok, it's like expecting Warner to play a very carefully composed, cautious innings & not flash at everything in the first over! Whatever, don't look for logic wherever you find Lunge!

  • zenboomerang on March 28, 2013, 4:42 GMT

    @Alex Malcolm... The real problem is that the team leading the SS standings gets the trophy whether they win or draw - that is the problem...

    Give the Shield leader a cup - i.e. Border/Simpson Cup & the finals winner the SS Cup or shared if the final is a draw... We would see much more aggressive playing from the "home" team which is nearly always happy for a draw - as is evident by the slow start by most home teams... At present there is no incentive for a win for the home team so change that...

  • bobagorof on March 28, 2013, 3:31 GMT

    PutMarshyOn: He scored it from the middle order, too (number 4). None of this 'opening' business. Queensland collapsed after he retired hurt, though. 3 quick wickets bringing about a declaration.

  • bobagorof on March 28, 2013, 3:22 GMT

    Front-Foot-Lunge: I'm sorry, are you suggesting that the way to encourage skill among batsmen (and not just T20 hitting) is to do away with the only 5 day match played by domestic teams? I'm afraid I don't see the logic there.

  • ABdareVinniers on March 28, 2013, 1:28 GMT

    Silk Silk Silk! Aus need to get him in ASAP.

  • on March 27, 2013, 20:51 GMT

    Great. Jordan Silk, Yet another NSW youngster that has slipped through our fingers. Maybe NSW needs a second shield team.

  • PutMarshyOn on March 27, 2013, 15:38 GMT

    @Pras_Punter. It was a pressure knock as well. 454-2 when he came in. Retired hurt, BTW.

  • KingofRedLions on March 27, 2013, 14:55 GMT

    Unusually for him, Front-Foot-Blunder isn't particularly correct in asserting that the Shield (or the final of it) is at fault for the current predicament of the Australian team. I would also not recommend an 18 team competition to anyone, ever.

  • Chris_Howard on March 27, 2013, 14:39 GMT

    One thing they should do to the Sheffield Shield final to make it more competitive is stop giving both advantages to the side that tops the ladder. Instead, let the top side choose whether they want to host the final or be allowed to be champions if they only draw.

    QED

  • Barnesy4444 on March 27, 2013, 11:39 GMT

    We should keep the final for the reasons stated. But don't expect big crowds and much other interest if the home team plays for a draw on day one.

  • mcj.cricinfo on March 27, 2013, 10:32 GMT

    Watched some of the game on tv, Silk and Cosgrove batted well in the first innings to keep out some quality QLD bowling. Great to see Harris get back to form. Congrats to TAS on winning the shield.

  • Front-Foot-Lunge on March 27, 2013, 9:56 GMT

    The Shied Final remains an irrelevant match in a useless shield system that only produces players not up to test level as we've all seen recently. Australia need to encourage skill among batsmen, not just T20 hitting. The England system makes a distinction there, Australia look like they learn a lesson or two from the English county system.

  • Thefakebook on March 27, 2013, 9:08 GMT

    I think Shield finals are important to announce yourself to the world.Just like Faulkner and Silk have done.

  • partha19 on March 27, 2013, 8:44 GMT

    Australia need young players who can play long innings which is what Jordan Silk showed only on his third first class match & that too in the finals. Any players who performs on a big stage & this is where the true grit comes into play. Shield final is very essential as players who have performed here have all become great cricketers. Lets keep a tab on Silk..Keep it up silk !

  • MrKricket on March 27, 2013, 8:41 GMT

    Aus needs to expand the Shield if anything with the BBL causing the long hiatus mid season many players don't get a chance to vie for Test selection for a long time. The BBL is never going to be the IPL so CA should forget trying to make it so. Have two weeks early in the season and then the final two weeks in January but play first class cricket all around it. Does anyone really care if Aus is ODI champion or T20 champion? The World Cups are the only matches that matter in those formats. But first class cricket leads to Test cricket and that is the only level that really matters to the majority of supporters in this country. ODIs have faded away. T20 is becoming a separate sport. The Shield needs to get bigger. I'd favour more imports so Aus players can get used to playing people from other countries. Not a million like the County Championship but one per team would be nice. Be good to see some Indians play here.

  • s.sreekant on March 27, 2013, 8:01 GMT

    where are those days of identifying young talents and grooming them.It seem that is missing from the domestic level and there needs to be some injection of young players into domestic circuit and let them grind there,it will make them learn about tough cricket.The state of oz cricket now is that of the english cricket of 90s,all average batsman.There seems to plenty of players who are past 28 yrs and are averaging just like their age.The time a young player is pushed into domestic he is 25 yrs,he may have a good season and he if he is selected into national team and if he has a bad run then he is pushed out of the scene and gone for ever.a promising player should attend academy and also should have a taste of domestic cricket. for a young player when he reaches the age of 25 he should have played a minimum of 50 FC games. Hope CA takes some advice from past cricketers on current state of their cricket.

  • PrasPunter on March 27, 2013, 7:27 GMT

    "...Shane Watson made 201 in the 2006 decider". Really ? Am I on another planet ? Did that happen on Earth, for God's sake ?

  • srriaj317 on March 27, 2013, 6:24 GMT

    @Steven Preston: The SS Final is indeed 5 days long. In fact, every FC final in the world is 5 days long to make it similar to test-match conditions.

  • Mary_786 on March 27, 2013, 6:14 GMT

    @Paul_rampley i echo your words. Khawaja is due for his chance. He is a player with complete confidence and text book technique. Too bad that confidence is wrecked by his superiors. And as for shield cricket it is in my opinion still the best domestic competition and the envy of other nations though other nations are catching up fast.We need to select the squad like a good docmocracy should. We are still one of those aren't we? So why don't we run a poll, everyone put in their ashes squad and we can talley up the votes as everyone here thinks the selectors have no idea and then proceed to bag out each others squad. (Yes I am taking the Micky(pun intended))

  • Freak7820 on March 27, 2013, 5:59 GMT

    Hopefully Silk and Faulkner get a chance to play for Australia's test team in the next 2-3 years. And the return of Ryan Harris should add some much needed depth to Australia's bowling lineup.

  • on March 27, 2013, 5:42 GMT

    Here's an idea, extend Shield games to 5 days. Get Test match conditions every time they play a Shield game without having the need for a final.

  • peter.suen on March 27, 2013, 5:37 GMT

    @PeteB Agree that finishing on top means your team deserves the title.

    HOWEVER, this article is not really about which team deserves to win. It's about individual performances that proves your temperament when it matters. And to that I agree with the writer. It is in a way the only match in the season that really matters and replicates the intensity of a test match.

    I actually don't feel the writer, in any way, tried to defend the merit of having a final. But he has highlighted what will be missed should it be abolished. Having said that, a grand final seems a must for aussie sports. NRL, AFL, A-League, you name it

  • venkatesh018 on March 27, 2013, 5:11 GMT

    Alex Malcolm has given wonderful examples here of players performing well in domestic cricket and going on to shine in International Tests. It is time to respect, strengthen and improve Shield cricket. Not demean it by extending the ludicrous Big Bash.

  • Paul_Rampley on March 27, 2013, 4:49 GMT

    @Niraj i am sure Khawaja will get his crack in the ashes, some positive comments from Inevarity on him playing in the ashes and that's wonderful to hear. On the topic of the shield final yes its vital we have these as this is where our young players learn their art. Solid shield cricket will lead to us becoming number 1 once again, but we need to work hard to get back.

  • on March 27, 2013, 4:35 GMT

    Australia is going WI way. Quality right now is being replaced fitness, attitude of bits and pieces cricketers. White, Fergusson, D Hussey and so many other middle layer talent has gone the T20 and Limited overs way. There is precious little left that is test quality and even that is not being tried well (e.g. Khawaja)

  • PeteB on March 27, 2013, 4:09 GMT

    Passionate defence I must say. But I remain entirely unconvinced that the Shield final has nay merits whatsoever. Finishing on top of the final is just reward.

  • PeteB on March 27, 2013, 4:09 GMT

    Passionate defence I must say. But I remain entirely unconvinced that the Shield final has nay merits whatsoever. Finishing on top of the final is just reward.

  • on March 27, 2013, 4:35 GMT

    Australia is going WI way. Quality right now is being replaced fitness, attitude of bits and pieces cricketers. White, Fergusson, D Hussey and so many other middle layer talent has gone the T20 and Limited overs way. There is precious little left that is test quality and even that is not being tried well (e.g. Khawaja)

  • Paul_Rampley on March 27, 2013, 4:49 GMT

    @Niraj i am sure Khawaja will get his crack in the ashes, some positive comments from Inevarity on him playing in the ashes and that's wonderful to hear. On the topic of the shield final yes its vital we have these as this is where our young players learn their art. Solid shield cricket will lead to us becoming number 1 once again, but we need to work hard to get back.

  • venkatesh018 on March 27, 2013, 5:11 GMT

    Alex Malcolm has given wonderful examples here of players performing well in domestic cricket and going on to shine in International Tests. It is time to respect, strengthen and improve Shield cricket. Not demean it by extending the ludicrous Big Bash.

  • peter.suen on March 27, 2013, 5:37 GMT

    @PeteB Agree that finishing on top means your team deserves the title.

    HOWEVER, this article is not really about which team deserves to win. It's about individual performances that proves your temperament when it matters. And to that I agree with the writer. It is in a way the only match in the season that really matters and replicates the intensity of a test match.

    I actually don't feel the writer, in any way, tried to defend the merit of having a final. But he has highlighted what will be missed should it be abolished. Having said that, a grand final seems a must for aussie sports. NRL, AFL, A-League, you name it

  • on March 27, 2013, 5:42 GMT

    Here's an idea, extend Shield games to 5 days. Get Test match conditions every time they play a Shield game without having the need for a final.

  • Freak7820 on March 27, 2013, 5:59 GMT

    Hopefully Silk and Faulkner get a chance to play for Australia's test team in the next 2-3 years. And the return of Ryan Harris should add some much needed depth to Australia's bowling lineup.

  • Mary_786 on March 27, 2013, 6:14 GMT

    @Paul_rampley i echo your words. Khawaja is due for his chance. He is a player with complete confidence and text book technique. Too bad that confidence is wrecked by his superiors. And as for shield cricket it is in my opinion still the best domestic competition and the envy of other nations though other nations are catching up fast.We need to select the squad like a good docmocracy should. We are still one of those aren't we? So why don't we run a poll, everyone put in their ashes squad and we can talley up the votes as everyone here thinks the selectors have no idea and then proceed to bag out each others squad. (Yes I am taking the Micky(pun intended))

  • srriaj317 on March 27, 2013, 6:24 GMT

    @Steven Preston: The SS Final is indeed 5 days long. In fact, every FC final in the world is 5 days long to make it similar to test-match conditions.

  • PrasPunter on March 27, 2013, 7:27 GMT

    "...Shane Watson made 201 in the 2006 decider". Really ? Am I on another planet ? Did that happen on Earth, for God's sake ?