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March 12, 2012
Australian domestic cricket's honorary "Test match", the Sheffield Shield final, will not be broadcast on television for the first time since 2007, due to cramped scheduling and the drain of resources created by the Twenty20 Big Bash League.
Due to be fought between Queensland and Tasmania over five days from Friday, the competition decider has been jettisoned from the pay television broadcaster Fox Sports' schedule as it juggles a vast array of football codes and the start of Australia's ODI series in the West Indies.
The logjam of matches is so intense that there was not even room for the final to be squeezed in via the digital multi-channelling option, which had already been reserved for other clashing sports.
While the schedule cram is a primary reason for the final's absence from television screens, the extra production costs of the BBL, expanded from six states to eight city-based teams this summer, is also understood to be a significant factor in Fox Sports' decision.
"More cricket was broadcast over the summer for the BBL and that chewed up a number of outside broadcasts," a spokesman for Fox Sports told ESPNcricinfo.
Instead of television coverage, the final will be webcast by Fox Sports, with two cameras to provide pictures from the Gabba while Brendon Julian and Mark Waugh anchor the coverage and provide commentary from the studio.
"It's a reasonable compromise, the match won't be on TV sets but the webcast means it will be open to all viewers, not just Fox subscribers," the spokesman said.
The Shield final has had a chequered history as a television product, broadcast at various times by Channel Nine, the defunct Optus Vision pay television network and Fox Sports since 2008. Its status as the most important domestic match of the summer has been enhanced by the broadcasts, with most players recognising the chance to place their name in lights by performing in a broadcast fixture.
In 2008, Phillip Hughes, Beau Casson and Peter Siddle all pushed ahead on the queue for Test places by performing strongly in the New South Wales versus Victoria final at the SCG, and all would earn a Baggy Green cap over the following 12 months. Last year the opening batsman Ed Cowan and teenaged fast bowler Pat Cummins both put in noteworthy final displays and were representing Australia before 2011 was out.
Shield matches have been webcast by Cricket Australia and the state associations over the past two summers, though at the Gabba Queensland Cricket had cut a budgetary corner at the start of the season - in order to make more room for the Brisbane Heat BBL team - by removing their internal broadcast cameras for Shield games.
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets hereFeeds: Daniel Brettig
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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