Believe it or not, but the Bupa Sheffield Shield season is already half way through.
An early start was scheduled due to the timing of this year’s CLT20 in South Africa and there’s only one round to play before the four-day game gives way to the KFC Big Bash League until late January.
The Queensland Bulls and Victoria Bushrangers are out in front of the field and with three wins apiece are the only teams with multiple outright victories to their credit.
Everyone else has claimed one maximum and will be gunning for a second big win before the break.
Queensland Bulls – 20pts
The Bulls roared to the top of the Shield table with their dominant display in defeating the Tigers by an innings and 123 runs during the last round of matches, sending an ominous warning to the rest of the competition in doing so.
By adding Usman Khawaja to their top order during the off-season, the Bulls stiffened their batting line-up considerably and must be thrilled by the form and consistency shown by the Test hopeful.
Joe Burns’ form has also been impressive and if the talented 23-year-old can convert more of his starts, Darren Lehmann and the Bulls’ brains trust will be on to a good thing.
Nathan Hauritz has returned to Queensland after his spell in New South Wales and looks to be a great foil for a multi-faceted pace attack that showed just how destructive it can be in dismantling a strong Blues outfit and then the Tigers a week later.
Star bat: Usman Khawaja, 430 runs @ 47.38
Star bowler: Luke Feldman, 23 wickets @ 23.22
Victoria Bushrangers – 20pts
The Vics are the only team yet to suffer an outright defeat and despite losing four players to the Test squad recently, looked to have plenty of talent in reserve – until Andrew McDonald, Clint McKay and Darren Pattinson all picked up injuries in the drawn match against New South Wales.
The Vics have also had a couple of matches stymied by rain and may feel hard done by not to be clear atop the table having been right in both contests.
The recent injuries mean the Bushrangers are looking deep into their bowling reserves, particularly with Peter Siddle and James Pattinson already on Test duty, but they’re a tough nut to crack and will still fancy their chances of finishing strongly.
Star bat: Chris Rogers, 299 runs @ 49.83
Star bowler: James Pattinson, 22 wickets @ 16.64
Tasmania Tigers – 10pts
The Tigers have stumbled badly in recent weeks and desperately need to regain their form with bat and ball if they are to claim a spot in the final.
Capitulation to Queensland after falling to the struggling Redbacks a week beforehand was a bitter pill for the proud Tigers to swallow, coach Tim Coyle describing his side’s effort against the Bulls as ‘pathetic’.
Anything but outright points from their next home outing against the Warriors will put Tasmania firmly on the back foot going into the second half of the season.
Star bat: Alex Doolan, 367 runs @ 61.17
Star bowler: Luke Butterworth, 20 wickets @ 18.75
New South Wales Blues – 8pts
Having had their opening matches scheduled either side of the CLT20 tournament in South Africa, the Blues have experienced a mixed start to the 2012-13 Shield season.
Brad Haddin has again proved his class by racking up a pair of centuries, but it may be argued the rest of the batting group has some improving to do if the traditional powerhouse of the competition is to feature in the run home.
Highly-rated youngsters like Steve Smith and Nic Maddinson have a big burden to carry in the top order and their ability to score heavily and take pressure of all-rounders Haddin and Moises Henriques will be hugely important for the Blues.
Star bat: Moises Henriques, 309 runs @ 154.50
Star bowler: Trent Copeland, 14 wickets @ 21.64
Warriors – 8pts
The West Australian outfit has had its share of troubles on and off the field and the Warriors’ trip south to Hobart this week looms as pivotal to their chances of success this season.
Having managed to overpower the Redbacks to register outright points last week, the Warriors can keep climbing if they’ve got enough to outdo Tasmania on the road.
The problem is they’ve struggled for consistency thus far, a factor no-doubt related to the CLT20 campaign and off-field issues that have plagued a couple of their high-profile players.
Justin Langer has been appointed head coach and will bring a hard-nosed attitude to the dressing room and there’s no doubt he’ll be gunning for a form reversal under his stewardship.
Star bat: Tom Triffitt, 284 runs @ 35.50
Star bowler: Mitchell Johnson, 13 wickets @ 30.00
South Australia Redbacks – 6pts
South Australia’s outright victory over Tasmania in Hobart has been the highlight of their season to date, the gutsy win their first taste of maximum points since November 2010.
Whether it’s enough to say the Redbacks’ problems are over is another matter altogether.
Darren Berry has talent in his squad, but the Redbacks are clearly in a developmental phase and their young stars are still subject to inconsistent performance – which will likely mean more heartache than joy throughout the rest of the season.
Phil Hughes has been a revelation since his switch from New South Wales while new skipper Johan Botha is also starting to show his all-round importance to the side.
Star bat: Phil Hughes, 352 runs @ 44.00
Star bowler: Chadd Sayers, 16 wickets @ 24.94
First published here by Cricket Australia
Photo courtesy of Matt King/Getty Images AsiaPac