Melbourne: Australia's top first class league Sheffield Shield could be declared vacant for the first time since the second World War after the cricket board cancelled the final round of the competition due to the rising threat of COVID-19 pandemic, according to a report.
Cricket Australia, however, deferred a decision on the final, scheduled to be played from March 27, given the rapidly evolving COVID-19 pandemic situation, according to cricket.com.au.
CA chief executive Kevin Roberts said the Shield final round had been cancelled "in an effort to reduce travel" and he hoped it would "contribute to the global effort to slow, and eventually stop, the spread of coronavirus".
"At times like this, cricket must take a back seat for the greater good," he said. "We have been in consultation with relevant government agencies, our own medical team and an infectious diseases expert for quite some time now, and we have taken all their advice into account in making these decisions."
The CA chief added: "The decisions are not something we are accustomed to in cricket ... it has become evident that we must play our part in helping limit the spread of the virus by reducing person-to-person contact wherever possible. These measures reflect that."
Spectators had already been banned from the three matches due to be played this week at the WACA in Perth, Karen Rolton Oval in Adelaide and Melbourne's Junction Oval.
In the final round matches, due to begin Tuesday, South Australia were to host Queensland while NSW were to travel to play Western Australia in Perth. Victoria were set to host Tasmania from Thursday.
One option being considered by CA is awarding the NSW Blues, the current league leaders, the title if the final cannot be played. If that happens, it would be the state's 47th Shield title, and first since the 2013-14 summer.
If the public health situation improves in the next week, the final may proceed as planned with Victoria likely to be the Blues' opponents.
Victoria, the defending champions, have won four of the past five Shield titles, including beating NSW in last year's decider in Melbourne....