New South Wales and Victoria set to play Shield matches between themselves prior to the Ashes

Both teams denied entry into South Australia to quarantine and play against other states due to Covid border restrictions

Alex Malcolm
Alex Malcolm
New South Wales celebrate with the Marsh Cup, New South Wales vs Western Australia, Marsh Cup final, Bankstown Oval, April 11, 2021

New South Wales haven't been granted exemptions to leave  •  Getty Images

New South Wales and Victoria are set to play up to three Sheffield Shield and three Marsh Cup fixtures between themselves in Sydney and Melbourne starting in late October after both states were denied the chance to enter either South Australia or Northern Territory to quarantine and play against other states.
Plans had been in place for a month to have both teams to enter 14-day hard hotel quarantine in South Australia starting on October 4 to then play up to four Shield matches and five Marsh Cup matches interstate against South Australia, Western Australia, Tasmania, and Queensland with most of those borders open to each other. Both sides had agreed to do hard quarantine without training exemptions in the hope to get their seasons underway.
But those plans have fallen through with NSW head of male cricket Michael Klinger confirming on Tuesday that the two states were not given exemptions to enter South Australia, after previously being knocked back on a request to quarantine in the Northern Territory.
"We won't be travelling," Klinger said. "We've done our best over the last month to try and get ourselves interstate.
"We worked really hard with some governments to put some submissions in to allow that to happen. But unfortunately, we just haven't been able to get it over the line with some state governments that we tried to.
"The positives out of that is that the next steps are we're working really closely now with Cricket Australia and Cricket Victoria and our respective governments to get some games going against Victoria probably late October and into November to get both our seasons started. Hopefully be able to play them potentially on the main grounds and get some quality cricket in before the start of the BBL and more importantly for some of the guys playing Test cricket to get some preparation for them before the Ashes."
New South Wales and Victoria are currently in lockdown but with vaccination rates rising there is optimism that both states could be open to each other by late October, despite borders to other states remaining close indefinitely. That would give the two teams a chance to play as many as three Shield games at both the SCG and MCG over the course of a month prior to the Ashes and BBL starting in December.
"The way it's worked out, if we can work hard with Cricket Australia and Cricket Victoria we'll still be playing games around the same time that we would have been if we did go interstate and hopefully with zero quarantine," Klinger said.
"All it does really mean is we're playing games against the same team but I think in a way you've got two strong teams, people trying to vie for spots for the Ashes so potentially there's going to be some really strong games if we can get it up and going."
That will give the likes of Nathan Lyon, James Pattinson, Marcus Harris, and Will Pucovski, pending his fitness, the opportunity to play at least two games ahead of the start of the Ashes.
Victoria's team has been able to train as per normal in Melbourne and has been playing both white and red-ball practice matches at the Junction Oval because of exemptions for professional sporting teams to continue to train during lockdown. But New South Wales have had a far more difficult pre-season to navigate due to different restrictions in different local government areas.
Players have only trained in groups of 10. Wicketkeeper Baxter Holt and batting coach Chandika Hathurusingha have only been allowed to train when the team has trained at Sydney Olympic Park due to a 5km restriction on travel in their area. While legspinner Tanveer Sangha has had to bowl at his local nets on his own and send footage back to the coaching staff. Six other players including Matthew Gilkes, Jason Sangha, Jack Edwards and Chris Tremain have remained interstate having played cricket in Northern Territory during the winter months before playing grade cricket in Queensland and flying at short notice to Adelaide last week, all in a bid to avoid 14-day quarantine. But all six are returning to NSW today.
"We really thank Queensland cricket, NT cricket, and the SACA for [helping those players]," Klinger said. "And then we found out we couldn't go interstate so they're all coming back today to join the main group.
"The work ethic of our players and coaching staff, unless you're actually in Sydney and can see it, has been amazing. They've gone above and beyond players and staff, really over the last few months and I'm really excited to see how they all step up now to hopefully play some games of cricket because they've put in so much work in probably the most challenging circumstances that anyone has had around Australian cricket over the last few months."

Alex Malcolm is an Associate Editor at ESPNcricinfo