Australia news June 3, 2014

Sheffield Shield points system overhauled

Concerns about the state of Australian batting have helped usher in a new system of bonus points for first-innings runs, wickets and draws in the Sheffield Shield, under a two-year trial to be conducted from next summer.

As ESPNcricinfo reported last week, the Shield's points system will be overhauled to allow teams to gather extra points for runs scored and wickets taken in the first 100 overs of their first innings.

Borrowing from equations used in the first-class domestic competitions of England and South Africa, the new regulations will offer 0.01 of a point for each run scored beyond 200 within 100 overs, and 0.5 of a point for the taking of the fifth, seventh and ninth wickets.

In addition to still gaining six points for an outright win, teams will also be awarded one point for a drawn match, providing some incentive for batting out the final day of a match when victory is out of the question.

The introduction of bonus points has been championed by Cricket Australia's team performance manager Pat Howard, following last season's encouragement to curators to prepare drier pitches after a trend towards grassy, result-oriented strips in preceding summers.

"The Australian Team Performance Review asked us to look at ways to improve and that's what we're doing; we want to mirror the style international cricket is played and see results," Howard said. "We see these alterations to the points system as complementing the work we did with curators over the last 12 months to ensure there are fewer sporting wickets and an even contest between bat and ball.

"As recently as this month, the new national selector [Rod Marsh] highlighted a national issue with batting and therefore it is a necessity to continue to get the balance between bat and ball closer. Ultimately, we want our batsmen scoring plenty of runs and bowlers taking wickets with the game played in an entertaining and attacking style, but pushed to the limit.

"Some may ask why then we're rewarding a drawn match now and that's simply because we want teams being rewarded for showing some real fight when it's needed on the last day, just like Test cricket. We are aware that bonus points and first-innings points do not exist in Test cricket, therefore this is about the style of play in the first innings. Both teams can get points, not just one team in the first innings. The team that wins the game will be well rewarded."

The national team coach Darren Lehmann, himself a winner of the Shield under the old system as a player with Victoria and South Australia then more recently as coach of Queensland, said he favoured incentives for attractive, aggressive cricket.

"From my point of view as a past state coach I think it's a positive move and as Australian coach it's great to see the players perform under pressure in the first innings and also the second innings. We're going to have more results which is great for the game," Lehmann said. "We don't want to tinker with the system too much; it's just a little change. It'll make attractive and aggressive cricket and you'll see more results in Shield cricket which is great."

Darren Berry, the South Australia coach, struck a note of cautious approval in his response to the changes, which had been broadly canvassed among state associations since the Cricket Australia board approved the implementation of a new system in March.

"We still have to do our own analysis of the new points system, but things look promising at this stage," Berry said. "I'm in favour for any change which will result in a more exciting brand of cricket, so it is excellent to see that there are incentives for quicker first innings and outright victories."

The changes are more subtle than heavy-handed, with the results of the past three Shield seasons said to have been unaltered by retrospective use of the points system.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig