Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball season will begin behind closed doors tomorrow ©Getty Images

Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) season will begin tomorrow with new rules and restrictions, following a three-month delay because of COVID-19.

Matches will initially be held without fans, and spitting and high-fives are among the things to be banned.

Only 120 games have been scheduled for the season, a reduction from the 143 which would normally be played.

All tied games will finish after 10 innings, instead of 12, with matches which are level at this point ending in draws.

Each club will be able to name 26 players in their match-day squad, instead of 25, while they will be able to register 31 players in total instead of 29.

NPB is commonly regarded as the second-best baseball league in the world behind North America's Major League Baseball.

It is split into the Central League and Pacific League, with the winners of each meeting in the Japan Series to decide who is crowned the champions.

For the new season, the Central League has cancelled its Climax Series which normally decides the side which goes forward to the Japan Series.

Instead, the team at the top of the regular-season rankings will advance.

The season has been shortened and coronavirus restrictions introduced ©Getty Images
The season has been shortened and coronavirus restrictions introduced ©Getty Images

This decision was taken as only two clubs in the Central League - Yomiuri Giants and Chunichi Dragons - play indoors, and there is the threat of rained-off games ruining the reduced schedule.

The Pacific League will still hold its Climax Series.

A panel of health experts has overseen the resumption of play and said the guidelines could be changed depending on the current situation.

As well as banning spitting and high-fives, social distancing must be observed where possible and members of the media are banned from the field and dugouts. 

The 2020 NPB season was due to begin on March 20.

A break for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics was factored into the campaign but the Games, where baseball is scheduled to return to the programme, have been pushed back to 2021 because of COVID-19.

All 12 NPB teams are due to see action on day one tomorrow.

Matches include defending champions Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks taking on Chiba Lotte Marines.