Shield moves to September for Ashes run in

Cricket Australia has announced Queensland's Shield defence will get underway in late September.
Cricket Australia has announced Queensland's Shield defence will get underway in late September.

Cricket Australia will start the Sheffield Shield in September for just the second time to maximise time in the middle for Ashes hopefuls and offer week-long breaks between games.

The summer's full domestic schedule will be released on Wednesday, with six rounds of Sheffield Shield to be played before the Gabba Test on December 8.

Workload management is the priority, with at least seven days between each Shield game.

It means that any frontline bowlers who do not go to the Twenty20 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates and Oman should be fit to play each red-ball match in the lead up to Tests.

For that to work, Shield games will start on September 28, with the sixth round to coincide with Australia's Hobart Test against Afghanistan.

It marks the earliest first full round in the competition's 130-year history, with a staggered start through September used in 2012-13.

"It's one thing to schedule Shield games, but it's another to make sure they can all play," CA's head of operations Peter Roach told AAP.

"If we put them all together it creates risks for bowlers missing or breaking down."

The start date also means Australia's multi-format stars should get one red-ball game in before the T20 World Cup, as well as some 50-over matches.

The longer run in to the first Test should also provide Test hopefuls with a better chance to impress, after selector Trevor Hohns flagged his concerns with the lack of red-ball cricket ball the Ashes.

David Warner, Marnus Labuschagnge and Steve Smith remain the only certain selections in Australia's top six for the Ashes, with other spots still open.

Cameron Green remains likely to retain his position at No.6 as an allrounder, while Will Pucovski impressed on debut last summer before injury ruled him out of a second Test.

"Having five red-ball games in the lead up to the Test series is pivotal to our guys performing well," Roach said.

"Hopefully guys will stay in form all the way through. But even if they have a dip in form to recover in time to put their name forward for selection."

COVID still remains the biggest threat, with CA favouring less fixtures at the start of the summer and playing into April to reduce times in hubs if closed borders remain as an issue.

Notably there is no tour match for England before the Ashes in the schedule, however that could change depending on when they finish at the T20 World Cup.

One option would be for an intra-squad England warm-up game in quarantine, if allowed, with their Lions team also touring.

Australian Associated Press