Mr Blade's blog

Playing with pink balls at night!!

Day/night cricket, pink balls, cricket needs it? Or does it? Test cricket will die if it doesn't change. There has been many opinions expressed about the change to day/night cricket and the reasons needed for change. Some justified, some not. I personally think that the quality of some wickets prepared to suit the home teams (doesn’t bode well with my record of seeing away victories, although I am sure it will bring much hilarity to the fresh prince of Enfield) recently offer a far bigger threat to Test cricket than anything else but our very own groundsman will be more qualified to comment on that than me.

So the much anticipated game came around at the beautiful Adelaide Oval and off we went with open minds about what to expect. Given that in a recent day/night trial game between NSW and South Australia, NSW declared 30 minutes before the close of play on the first day and had South Australia 3 for 3 at the close didn’t fill me with much hope that it would be a fair challenge between bat and ball. Saying that, given the two decks served up so far in the series it may not be a bad thing. Adding to that, the groundsman had been asked to leave as much grass on the pitch as possible because there were concerns about the balls lasting 80 overs and also an AC/DC concert on the pitch 4 days prior. All this added up to a Nagpur scenario of a 2 day test match in my mind.

The first thing that struck me when the game started was that I couldn’t see the ball through the air or off the bat. Now, I know my eyesight isn't what it once was but I don’t think it had deteriorated that much since Dubai. It made me feel better when everyone around us was saying the same thing. Wickets were falling regularly but I don’t think any of them can be blamed on the pink ball or the light, it was still broad daylight and the ball didn’t seem to be doing that much, from what I could see anyway, nothing more than could be expected from a pitch with a bit of grass on it.

Lunch came around, or so we thought, the first curve ball of the day. As I’m tucking into my tikka masala and a glass of pimms at 4.20pm sat out the back on the village green, I look up on the big screen and play is about to restart, cue mad rush to finish lunch and get back to the seats, no one told us lunch and tea had been changed, or is it supper or evening meal or take away. I’m confused.

As darkness fell and the floodlights took hold it did get easier to see the ball and it was pretty obvious that it had started doing a lot more than earlier in the day. New Zealand were 202 all out by now and had a big opportunity to use the conditions to get a few wickets. After getting 2 quick wickets, including David 'the best batsmen ever lived' Warner, I don’t think New Zealand bowled very well given the ball was doing all sorts, so much so that we ended with 2 spinners bowling. An opportunity missed in my mind.

During the last session we were told the crowd figure was 47,000+, the largest crowd ever for a day’s test cricket at the Adelaide Oval and more than the 5 days combined in Perth. Nobody can really argue that it hasn’t been a success so far judging by the crowd figures and a good day’s cricket. Give me 260 runs and 12 wickets over 440/3 any day.

Mass hysteria all over the TV and newspapers. Australia invented it, Australia’s idea and it could only happen in Australia. Bit of an over-reaction but you can’t argue it wasn’t a success.

Day 2, the usual Aussie collapse when the ball is moving a bit, if I didn’t know we could be at Edgbaston on a Wednesday morning. Perhaps this pink ball cricket is just what England need! Who are they going to blame this time? It’s clear to see that bad batting and not the ball or lights leave them 116-8 at lunch. After lunch an outrageous piece of 3rd umpiring let the Aussies get to 224, that in itself is worth 3 pages - what is the point of the technology if the umpire is going to over-rule it.

To the evening on day 2, and the ball has started moving around all over the place, making average bowlers like Mitchell Marsh look like world beaters. Who knows what will happen for the rest of the game but it is quite clear you don’t really want to be batting in the last hour of the day under lights. If the day/night games are to continue I think we could see some interesting declarations along the way and captains really trying to use the conditions.

Day 3, New Zealand 90 odd in front with 5 down you would say that Australia are well in front but if the Kiwis can somehow manage to bat the first 2 sessions out and get 220 in front anything could happen in the final session. Cue mad throwing of willow and all out before lunch/dinner/tea/afternoon snack/brunch. 187 to win, it’s quite clear how the Aussies set off scoring 5 an over, that they want as little to do as possible under lights. The Aussies finally crawl over the line with 7 wickets down, it was quite obvious how much more difficult it was when the lights came on and darkness fell. The game ended with New Zealand having 6 slips and a gully. So we have a 3 day Test, the conditions probably favoured the bowlers too much and it is a shame that a 3rd umpiring decision had such an impact on the game but give me this over a 600 v 600 game every time.

What was quite frightening was the technique, or lack of, by some of these so called world class players against the moving ball. I would back England to beat both these sides comfortably in these conditions

Final thoughts on day/night cricket, yes it has been a success, the cricket has been very watchable and the crowds have come. Personally I am not over sold on it, I think given the success of Adelaide there could be a big overkill on it. I think there is a place for it but it has to be in moderation and at the right grounds. Do I want to be getting home after 10pm every night of a Test match, no I don’t. One day cricket I can live with it but not 5 days, especially if you are on tour when I want to go out for dinner and have a few drinks after the cricket, especially with children in tow. For example, anybody who was in Dubai will know why day/night cricket wouldn’t work there, given the trouble everyone had getting away from the ground after play. You don’t want to be stuck in the middle of nowhere at 10pm.

Given that the guests of honour at the game were representatives of the Indian and South African cricket, both touring Australia next year, I expect we will see more day/night cricket in Australia next year. The word coming out of Cricket Australia is that given poor attendances in Brisbane they will go there next year. Now anyone who has been to Brisbane knows that there is a storm around 7.30pm every night so how that is going to work I’m not sure but that’s Cricket Australia for you.

Mr Blade

Click here for other blogs