Make no mistake, day-night Tests are here to stay

Date: December 1, 2015 / Posted by Glenn Mitchell

Day-night TestWhile a turtle only advances by sticking its neck out, Cricket Australia decided to put its on the line and it won.

No doubt the sound of champagne corks popping is still being heard at its headquarters in the Melbourne suburb of Jolimont.

It may have gone less than three days, but for mine, the Adelaide Test was a raging success.

And that is coming from a man who was sceptical of the concept for quite some time.

Coming off the back of two ‘bat-a-thons’ at Brisbane and Perth the battle between bat and ball at Adelaide provided engrossing entertainment.

Interestingly, the historic maiden day-night venture ran early on in parallel with the third Test between India and South Africa at Nagpur.

That match also concluded inside three days but in vastly different conditions.

Right from ball one at Nagpur the match was going to be simply a spinner’s paradise – so much so that the hosts only chose the one specialist fast bowler, Ishant Sharma.

India won the match with its spinners claiming all 20 wickets and Sharma bowling two overs in the first innings and 13 in the second.

Thirteen of the wickets claimed by the Proteas went the way of the spinners.

A Test strip like the one rolled out in Nagpur, where deterioration is pretty much the norm before a ball is bowled. is not healthy for the sport.

At Adelaide the pitch provided a match of similar longevity but the match was played out in a far more traditional fashion.

The pitch provided a true test of skills across all the facets of the game.

That in essence, is why it is called a ‘Test match’ – spelt with a capital ‘T’ – as it should be a supreme test of all of the physical skills of the game allied to the necessary psychological requirements.

The Adelaide strip – and the revolutionary new pink ball – provided that result.

The pitch was deliberately left with more grass on it as a way of helping to conserve the integrity of the pink ball.

It was hoped that the ‘kinder’ surface would reduce the abrasive damage done to the ball in the previous week’s round of day-night Sheffield Shield fixtures.

Across the match no innings reached the point where a second new ball was required.

Australia’s first innings was the longest, absorbing 72.1 overs, and by its conclusion – eight overs from a new ball being available – the pink orb was still in good condition and clearly visible to the combatants.

The Gabba Test produced four centuries while the WACA highway gave up six including two doubles, one of which was just ten shy of a triple ton.

At Adelaide we did not witness one triple-figure score with the best of the four half-centuries being Peter Nevill’s 66.

Yes, the ball swung, but I would argue that at no point did it do so with the angular ferocity of the likes of Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis when they were delivering an old ball.

With the increased proliferation of reduced overs cricket the art of swing bowling has taken a hammering.

The need to hit the surface hard in coloured clothing games has in many ways seen a dilution in the swing bowling art.

Often a new red ball hardly bends through the air during the first session of a Test match.

Compare that with the days of yore and the likes of Hadlee, Alderman, Marshall and co.

It was refreshing to see batsmen challenged by swing at Adelaide.

And, as is normally the case, where there is a combination of grass and moisture in the pitch the ball will spin.

Nathan Lyon turned the ball regularly throughout the game and picked up 2-42 from 15 overs on the opening day.

Cricket Australia CEO James Sutherland, the biggest driver towards day-night Tests, always said the format would get more bums on seats.

He was right, although the final result may have been behind his wildest expectations when he started to float the concept almost a decade ago.

The total attendance across five days at Brisbane was around 50,000 while 40,000-odd watched the action at the WACA.

The day-night fixture witnessed daily crowds of 47,400, 42,400 and 33,900 for a match total of nearly 124,000.

Some of those fans would have been there simply to be able to say in years to come that they witnessed a major moment in the sport’s history.

What was noticeable however, was the swelling of the numbers after the dinner break each day where reduced ticket prices saw a daily influx in spectators.

On day one, in particular, it coincided with people having knocked off work.

Television ratings were also particularly strong and given the Adelaide Oval is one of the most telegenic venues in the sport the images of the setting sun were captivating.

The issue for the sport now is identifying which other venues could be suitable for further expansion of the day-night concept.

Sutherland has suggested two day-night Tests next summer when both South Afrcia and Pakistan will visit for three-Test series.

He says Adelaide will get an encore and has thrown Brisbane up as the other likely candidate.

I am not too sure the Gabba is a good choice given the regular late afternoon storms that so often terminate day’s play ahead of schedule.

Perth will not get a gong due to its time zone while the thought of day-night Tests at the MCG or SCG certainly entice, although as a Twitter correspondent mentioned to me whilst discussing the topic, the McGrath Foundation’s pink campaign would be an issue at the SCG.

As I wrote the other day here on The Roar, a greater balance between bat and ball is what is needed in Test cricket.

Bats that impersonate tree trunks and boundaries that are roped off well inside the fence have helped batsmen plunder runs while the poor old bowler’s weapon of choice – the 156g ball – has remained unchanged for many decades.

A pink ball and play under lights will bring the pendulum more into balance and that cannot be a bad thing.

Day-night Tests are here to stay.

All that remains is to see how far this new frontier extends.

First published on The Roar – theroar.com.au – on 30 November 2015, soliciting 60 comments