New Zealand Cricket has today released the 2014-15 Plunket Shield schedules, and locked in a format for the domestic season for the next four years.
"Our Major Associations told us certainty of scheduling was crucial, so this season's format will be in place for the next four years," says NZC General Manager Domestic Cricket David Cooper.
"It's a key outcome from the Domestic Cricket Review, which is all about maximising entertainment and commercial opportunities, and supporting high performance. Recommendations from the review will be in place this year, to capitalise on public interest in ICC Cricket World Cup 2015."
Current champions Canterbury will open their title defence at the revamped Hagley Oval against the Wellington Firebirds on 25 October. Three full rounds will be played in October and December 2014, with the rest of the competition played from early February 2015.
"The Plunket Shield has been domestic cricket's most fiercely fought prize for 108 years, and is the testing ground for future BLACKCAPS," says Cooper.
"Take Canterbury’s Tom Latham, who topped the Plunket Shield batting averages last season with 79 and a high score of 261. He went on to establish himself as a BLACKCAPS Test opening batsman in the West Indies and earned an NZC contract this year. Tom's a great example of what can be achieved in this competition."
"The four day, red ball format challenges our cricketers to meet a high standard, and is their chance to test their skills against the country's best," says Cooper.
New Zealand Governor General William Plunket donated the shield in 1906-07, and New Zealand first class domestic teams have been playing for it ever since.
The shield was played on a challenge basis until 1921-22, before taking on its current points format.
Otago, Auckland, Canterbury and Wellington were the first four teams to contest the shield, with Central Districts joining in 1950-51 and Northern Districts completing the line-up in 1956-57.
Every match of the 2014-15 domestic season will be live-scored on www.blackcaps.co.nz and the Major Association websites.
Limited overs schedules will be released over the next two weeks.