Shield final the end of Smith, Warner bans

Rob Forsaith
An expanded BBL next season has forced Cricket Australia to rejig its domestic competitions

Australia's domestic cricket season will start on September 16 and run until April, opening the door for Steve Smith and David Warner to make a Sheffield Shield final comeback.

Cricket Australia (CA) has released more dates for its upcoming 'summer' that now spans more than six months, reflecting an expanded Big Bash League (BBL).

The one-day cup starts in Townsville on September 16, halfway through AFL and NRL finals.

The Shield final begins the following year on March 28, with the second half of the first-class season to start on February 23 because of a supersized BBL.

March 28 is also the date Smith and Warner's one-year bans for their roles in the Cape Town cheating scandal end.

If NSW reach the Shield final the duo, who have vowed to play grade cricket in Sydney and continue to be wooed by Twenty20 leagues around the world including South Africa, could technically be picked by state selectors.

Dukes balls will again be used in the second half of the Shield season, meaning Smith and Warner would have a chance to practice with the pills they'll encounter if selected for next year's Ashes tour.

There will be no day-night Shield fixtures in 2018-19.

Australia's four-Test series against India starts on December 6 but the tourists refused to play the series opener at Adelaide Oval with anything but a red ball.

However a two-Test series involving Australia and Sri Lanka will begin with a pink-ball clash at the Gabba on January 24.

Test stars will either be playing an ODI series against India, BBL or grade cricket in the lead-up to that first Test against Sri Lanka.

From the moment Australia's first Test against India finishes, players outside the XI will be restricted to white-ball action as they seek to build a compelling case for a baggy green.

The upside for the likes of Glenn Maxwell and Ashton Agar, both yet to play a Test on home soil, is there will be five Shield rounds before that first Test.

It is a luxury players haven't been afforded in recent years, even before an Ashes series.

The downside for Maxwell, Agar and many others in the mix to be part of the Test XI is they almost certainly won't play all five.

Two rounds overlap with limited-overs action in Australia between Justin Langer's team and South Africa.

The first two Shield rounds start on October 16 and 25 respectively. Australia are slated to face Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates until late October but dates for those Tests and T20s are yet to be announced.

The one-day cup will revert to a six-state competition, with the CA XI no longer taking part. All six teams will be involved in knockout fixtures ahead of an October 10 final at Junction Oval in Melbourne.