Monday, 7 December 2015

Will Pink Ball Test Cricket be a success?

by Oliver Wright



27th November 2015- A date that could possibly change the course of cricketing history. Australia faced New Zealand at Adelaide, in the 3rd and final match of a series Australia were winning 1-0. Aside from providing a fitting platform to pay tribute to the one-year anniversary of the death of the Australian Batsman Phillip Hughes, it marked the first day of the inaugural day/night test match. The game was to be played out from 14:00 until 21:00 with a pink ball, designed to be visible in both natural and floodlit conditions, with the first ever ‘dinner break’ being held from 18:20 to 19:00.
           
The Arguments
Although the concept has been trialled domestically on multiple occasions, most notably with the traditional season opening fixture between the county champions and the MCC being held under lights in Dubai since 2010, the topic has still proven to be divisive, with many of crickets’ high-profile names highlighting their opinions on the matter. Legends of the game such as Shane Warne (ex-Australian bowler), Steve Waugh (former Australian Captain), and Sir Garfield Sobers (ex-West Indian all rounder) have all shown their support for the idea, with Test Match Specials’ Geoffrey Boycott, even saying he believed change has to be instigated to prevent the longer form of the game from ‘dying’. Unfortunately, Boycott’s comment is relevant, as Test Cricket crowds outside England are falling at a dramatic rate. Earlier in November the top six Test Match sides were playing each other at the same time (England v Pakistan, Australia v New Zealand, and South Africa v India), and all the matches were poorly attended, with the first day of the England vs Pakistan match in Abu Dhabi only being watched by 54 fans.
            
Many fans are struggling to make it to games, as they tend to take place across the working week, limiting the number of days that people can sacrifice to watch. As a result, the seemingly obvious and necessary decision has been made to increase the numbers attending, as what could be better after a hard day of work or school, than an evening spent watching some of the world’s greatest, battling it out in the pinnacle of cricket’s formats.
            
There are some who disagree with the change however, with the main concern of the critics being that the pink ball may behave in unusual ways, leading to an uneven contest between bat and ball, damaging the foundations of the reputation of a game that has remained almost unaffected in its traditionalist state for over one hundred years. The red ball has been used for such an extensive period of time to great effect, making the risk of using the pink ball foolish as if a team were to get bowled out for 50, or if a player was to hurt themselves because of the change, all of the cynics would be up in arms against the new format, and would most likely have more weight and support in their arguments.
            
Former England Batsman Kevin Pietersen has made his point of view clear by saying ‘Wickets change at night. Who wants to see a new ball at certain grounds around the world at 8 o'clock at night under lights. Are you mad?’ And as an avid supporter of Test Cricket, I can understand this, because whether you agree with the novelty of Pink ball cricket or not, it will change the way the game is played, and new tactics will have to be produced to reap the full benefit of both the pitches and ball.

The Match
Overall, the 3rd Test Match between Australia and New Zealand proved to be a fairly low-scoring affair, with Australia just edging their neighbours out by 3 wickets in a close yet comfortable encounter. With New Zealand scoring 202 and 208 respectively in their first and second innings, and Australia amassing 224, the Baggy Greens were left to score 187 on the third day, and although facing a tough battle against Trent Boult (5-60) and the wobbling ball, Shaun Marsh hit a match-winning 49 as his side limped to the target 7 wickets down.

Even though ball dominated proceedings, the experiment with the new form of the game could be seen as a success. The three days brought in a total crowd of 123,736 people, and the extra swing from the pink ball excited spectators and commentators alike, with former players Michael Vaughan and Glenn McGrath tweeting in support of the idea. Furthermore, the Australian Cricket Board have already invited Pakistan to play a day-nighter in 2016, while Pakistan themselves are considering the possibility of holding one in the UAE.

Unfortunately, you should not expect to be seeing these matches in England in the near future, as our Test Match attendances are currently good, and the damp, cold evenings would merely push crowds away. For now however, cricket fans should revel in the suitable saviour for the longest form of the game in desperate need for a modern boost.

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