It has been a funny old Sheffield Shield season with a massive gap right in the middle of it. The final round of the first class summer in Australia begins on Tuesday and there are four teams vying for a finals berth.
The points table, at the end of the 9th round of play, looks like this:
|New South Wales||9||3||3||0||3||0||26||1.050||4715/148||4549/150|
Obviously, Tasmania and Victoria are out of the running for the final. Each of the other four teams are all in with a shot of being in the final and even Queensland could host the final if results go their way.
These are the fixture kicking off on Tuesday:
· New South Wales v Western Australia at Canberra
· Tasmania v South Australia at Hobart
· Victoria v Queensland at Melbourne
The big game of the round is the fixture coming out of Canberra with a finals spot obviously up for grabs for the winner. If the game ends in a draw then the winner of first innings points will go to 28 points and that ought be enough to make the finals. For both teams, if they lose on first innings then they will still have a chance given that there are 6 points available for an outright win. New South Wales though will be hoping that Queensland do not win outright because if they win first innings points and then draw the game and Queensland win outright Queensland will go through to the final as they will have won more games outright.
South Australia will secure a finals spot if they get first innings points and Queensland fail to win outright or, again, even if they lose on first innings, if they procure an outright victory. Obviously, a win on first innings and outright gets them into the final without the need for count back.
For Queensland to figure in the finals they must win against Victoria on the first innings as well as outright to secure 6 points and jump to 28 points. Then they must rely on South Australia only winning on the first innings or not gaining points and one of New South Wales or Western Australia not getting any points from their encounter.
Looking at the games:
· Queensland have been assisted by the selection of the Australian T20 team as the Bushrangers will be without Daniel Christian, Aaron Finch, Cameron White and Glenn Maxwell. Maxwell, in particular had been in excellent form for the Vics so he will be a big loss. Conversely, Queensland will be basically at full strength and come into the game off the back of a massive win against the leaders of the competition, Western Australia. They will be looking at making it a season worthwhile for captain James Hopes who has been playing with stress fractures since the first round of the season and has 32 wickets to show for it.
· South Australia have been rocked by the suspension of their captain Johan Botha as a result of his poor conduct in their Round 9 fixture. He is also the second highest wicket taker in the competition with 36. They will be looking to Tom Cooper, who is the top scorer in the competition with 858 runs to lead the charge with the willow. The defending champion Tasmanians have a great record at home and will, no doubt, put out a pitch that seams which will play right into their hands.
· Western Australia and New South Wales are playing a semi final of sorts in this game. The Warriors possess two of the most consistent batters in the first class game in Marcus North and Adam Voges and it is no surprise that they lacked quality runs in their last game against Queensland which WA lost terribly. The New South Welshmen possess the leading wicket taker in the competition on Steve O’Keefe with 38 wickets at an average of 20.05 and one expects he will bowl “big” overs for them again in Canberra.
An exciting end to a strange season awaits on Tuesday. This is going to be epic!