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Not only is the Sheffield Shield the oldest first class competition in Australia, it’s also one of the most historic tournaments in world cricket so let’s take a closer look at how it works.
What is the Sheffield Shield?
The Sheffield Shield is the major competition for first class cricket sides in Australia. It was first held in 1892 and runs right across the domestic summer from September through to March.
Six teams compete in the tournament which is currently referred to as the Marsh Sheffield Shield for sponsorship purposes.
Sheffield Shield History
The very first edition of the Sheffield Shield was run from the start of the 1892/93 season. Informal cricket competitions took place around Australia prior to this date but there was a need for structure to be put in place.
The competition is named after the Earl of Sheffield who travelled with England’s international touring party of 1891/92. The Earl subsequently donated £150 to the New South Wales Cricket Association with a view to setting up an established intercolonial tournament.
Just three teams took part in the first edition of the Sheffield Shield. New South Wales, South Australia and Victoria competed, with Victoria claiming the title after winning all four of their matches.
The competition continued in similar fashion until the 1926/27 season when the addition of Queensland expanded the Sheffield Shield to four teams. After the second world war, Western Australia became the fifth state team to become involved when they took their place at the start of the 1947/48 campaign.
In 1977/78, the current list of six Sheffield Shield teams was completed when Tasmania were confirmed.
Sheffield Shield Rules
The rules follow the regular laws of first class cricket. Each game is played on a two-innings per side basis with four results possible – a win for either side, a draw or a tie.
In the league stage of the competition, games are played on a double round robin basis. This means that each side will play each other twice – home and away – during the regular season.
Points are awarded and, once this sequence is complete, the top two sides in the league table will progress to the final. In that final, the state team that finished at the top of the table claims home advantage. The winner takes the Sheffield Shield trophy while, in the event of a draw, the bonus point system used during the regular season will determine the champions.
Sheffield Shield Teams
Six state teams compete in the Sheffield Shield and these are:
- New South Wales
- South Australia
- Western Australia
Using statistics up to and including the end of the 2020/21 season, New South Wales are the most successful side in the history of the Sheffield Shield. Known as the Blues, the team has won 47 titles with the most recent victory coming in 2019/20.
Victoria are the closest challengers to NSW with 32 titles across that same period of time. The team without an official nickname splits their home games between the Melbourne Cricket Ground and the Junction Oval.
Next up in the all-time table of Sheffield Shield winners are Western Australia. They may have been the fifth team to join the competition in 1947 but they are the third most successful with 15 wins to date.
This is another side without an official nickname but you’ll often find that Western Australia is abbreviated to WA. Home matches are played almost exclusively at the WACA Ground in Perth.
The team looking to overtake Western Australia’s record in the near future are South Australia. The side are known as the Redbacks and they split their home games between the Adelaide Oval and the Karen Rolton Oval.
South Australia were one of the three original teams in the Sheffield Shield but they have won just 13 titles in over 130 years of competition. It’s a record that puts the Redbacks in fourth place in the all-time list but clearly there is some room for improvement.
Queensland follow on in third place with nine Sheffield Shield trophies since they entered the competition at the start of the 1926/27 campaign. Their most recent success came in 2020/21 so they’re a threat in the modern era and will be looking to add to those title wins throughout the 2020s.
Queensland are known as the Bulls and their home games are played at the Gabba and at Allan Border Field in Brisbane.
Completing the list are Tasmania who are the newest recruits to the Sheffield Shield roster. They have just three title wins up to 2021/22 but that’s a reasonable return considering that they only entered the competition in 1977.
Tasmania’s nickname is the Tigers and their home games are played at the Bellerive Oval.
Sheffield Shield Winners in the Last 10 Years
The 2020/21 edition of the Sheffield Shield was won by Queensland who won their ninth overall title. The Bulls finished on top of the table in the regular season and went on to face second placed New South Wales in the final. Western Australia finished in third.
In that final, Queensland would go on to record an emphatic victory by an innings and 33 runs. Marnus Labuschagne was Player of the Match, scoring 192 in Queensland’s first innings total of 389. New South Wales made 143 and 213 in reply.
New South Wales won their 47th title at the end of the 2019/20 Sheffield Shield campaign. At the end of the regular season, the Blues finished top of the table with Victoria in second place and Queensland in third.
New South Wales and Victoria were scheduled to meet in the final but, unfortunately, the game was cancelled due to the Covid situation at the time. For that reason, NSW were awarded the trophy as the league leaders at the end of the Round Robin stage.
The 2018/19 Sheffield Shield season ended with Victoria taking their 32nd title. A full campaign was played and Victoria headed the regular season table, ahead of New South Wales and Western Australia.
The final saw Victoria beat NSW by 177 runs. Marcus Harris made 141 as his Victoria side reached 289 on first innings and that helped him land the Player of the Match award. It was a low scoring game and NSW never fully recovered after being dismissed for just 121 in their first innings.
At the end of the 2017/18 Sheffield Shield campaign, Queensland had claimed just the eighth title in the state’s history. After the round robin stage, the Bulls had topped the table with Tasmania in second place and Victoria in third.
Queensland had home advantage as they progressed to the final where they would go on to beat Tasmania by nine wickets. The game looked to be heading for a draw but Tasmania had to look for a win as the Tigers had finished second in the table. They made a generous second innings declaration and the Bulls chased down their target of 128 for the loss of just one wicket.
In 2016/17, the Sheffield Shield was won by Victoria who lifted the trophy for the 31st time. They finished in first place in the table, followed by South Australia and Western Australia.
The final, between the top two teams in the division, was drawn. Neither Victoria nor Western Australia could force a result so the Victorians won by virtue of finishing at the top of the table.
Victoria were the winners once again as the 2015/16 Sheffield Shield reached its conclusion. The Victorians finished second in the table behind South Australia with New South Wales in third.
Victoria needed to win the final against South Australia and they did so by a seven wicket margin. Peter Handscomb was the player of the match with 183 runs in two Victorian innings.
At the end of the 2014/15 season, Victoria secured their 29th Sheffield Shield title. At the conclusion of the round robin stage, the league table put Victoria in first place, followed by Western Australia and New South Wales.
The top two teams progressed to the final which ended in a high scoring draw. The highlight of the game saw Victoria’s Fawad Ahmad claim bowling figures of 8/89 – the best in a Shield Final.
The 2013/14 Australian cricket season saw New South Wales win their 46th Sheffield Shield. NSW finished at the top of the regular season table, followed by Western Australia and South Australia.
The final was a dull draw with New South Wales batting out 168.5 overs for their first innings 449. Western Australia were unable to force a result and only had time to bat once.
Tasmania celebrated a rare victory at the end of the 2012/13 Sheffield Shield campaign. It was only the third title in the state’s history and it came after the Tigers finished top of the regular season table. Queensland were second, followed by New South Wales.
In the final, a century from Jordan Silk helped Tasmania post 419 in their first innings. Queensland were unable to force a result and the match was drawn. As league leaders, Tasmania Tigers won the Shield.
At the end of the 2011/12 season, the Sheffield Shield was won by Queensland. It was the state’s seventh title and it followed a regular season campaign where they finished top of the table, ahead of Tasmania and Victoria.
In a thrilling final, Queensland Bulls won by just three wickets. Chris Hartley was named Player of the Match after scoring 111 for the Bulls in their first innings.