Sheffield Shield format adds real integrity to the game

THE Sheffield Shield is the pinnacle of cricket in Australia, and a competition the Queensland Bulls have dominated in recent times.

Four-day cricket is a very different game to the glitz and glamour of T20, but for me is still just as entertaining. It's a battle of skill and concentration, and a war of attrition, combining to create enthralling and engaging contests for spectators.

The Bulls have contested the past two finals and again are looking to be frontrunners this season, which starts this Wednesday for the side with a visit to Adelaide.

Queensland has a stable squad that has contested and won finals in all three forms of the game. Our bowling stocks have great depth, with all our bowlers proven first-class performers. This is important during Shield cricket as injury (especially to bowlers) can potentially ruin a campaign.

Tasmania is the defending champion from last season and will again be a very tough competitor. Although the Tigers have lost legend Ricky Ponting from their line-up, there are still several class players whose games are tailored to the longer form. With their ability to stay in the contest for long periods, you always have to play strong and consistent cricket against them.

Victoria has not contested the Shield final in the past couple of seasons but remains an extremely dangerous outfit. The Bulls, though, have had great success against the Bushrangers recently, and we always seem to go to a new level for these clashes.

New South Wales will benefit from a more settled playing line-up this year. The Blues finished last season with a blaze of wins and will always be a tough team. Their bowling, in particular, is varied and versatile, making them team a team to respect.

South Australia is always a tough team in Adelaide. Reverse-swing and spin seems to be the Redbacks' strength, along with players who can bat for long periods. To get a win it's a grind that almost always goes four days.

Western Australia is possibly the dark horse of the competition. Its batting line-up has several quality names, and the bowlers can certainly deliver with some hostility, which means the Warriors are always a team to play with caution. The WACA is a tough venue and its conditions certainly suit their team.

It is a wide-open competition this season - remembering that all six teams finished within less than one outright win of each other last summer. The added incentive of an Ashes summer also means that the Shield will be crucial in the selection process for the Australian team.

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