In a bid to revive the national side's flagging fortunes, Cricket Australia has broken down the domestic summer into the three separate formats of the game for the first time.

And the sport's governing body will again trial night cricket in the Sheffield Shield with a view to introducing it in Tests.

Fresh from their 3-0 Ashes defeat in England, and a 4-0 loss in India before that, Australia have slumped to fifth in the International Cricket Council Test rankings and are ranked fifth in one day internationals and seventh in Twenty20s.

In response this summer's schedule, released by CA on Saturday, has been separated into blocks of Sheffield Shield games, domestic one-day fixtures and the Twenty20 tournament the Big Bash League.

Australia's slide down the totem pole of world cricket has been blamed on an over-emphasis on the short forms of the game and short lead-in times to Tests, such as the one-day series in India before the return Ashes series begins in Brisbane on November 1.

CA hopes the new schedule will "mean players won't have to switch regularly between formats over the course of summer, allowing better preparation".

The one-day domestic tournament has been squeezed into the month of October and will be broadcast on the Nine Network's high definition channel GEM.

While six rounds of the Sheffield Shield will be played before Christmas, three will be completed before the first Ashes Test on November 21 and the Big Bash League finals window has been brought forward by a week.

The focus has been on sharpening the domestic schedule to provide the best preparation for the Ashes series, according to CA.

"From 30 October until mid-December there will an intensive block of Sheffield Shield cricket," CA chief executive James Sutherland said.

"All Test players will have a minimum of two and a maximum of three Shield matches to prepare for the first Ashes Test.

Most Test players will already be in Australia but any Test players returning from the India ODI series will be available for rounds two and three before they assemble for the Ashes.

"While it remains an important proving ground, the Shield isn't the only measure used by selectors to assess Test aspirants. The Australia A program has been upgraded over the last two years to become an important step for those players seeking Australian selection, whether at Test or One-Day International level.

Round nine of the Sheffield Shield will feature a number of day night matches with pink balls as Cricket Australia seeks suitable equipment and playing conditions that will enable day-night Test cricket to be played in Australia.

Sheffield Shield cricket has been experimented with before but CA hope they are closer than ever to bringing it into the Test arena.


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