Unless you’ve been living in a cave for the last few months you will know that the first ever day-night Test is currently taking place in Adelaide between Australia and New Zealand, with the new pink ball in use. In the build-up to the Test there has been lots of talk about the ball, its suitability, the pitch that has been prepared to accommodate it, its possible impacts on swing, its visibility under floodlights, and so on. In my opinion a lot of this chat has been overblown nonsense, particularly from a couple of ex-players who should really know better.
Ricky Ponting has been a strong opponent of day-night Tests, arguing that it goes against the history and tradition of Test cricket. Kevin Pieterson went a step further, saying that the pink ball would be so different that a separate set of statistics would be needed for this new innovation.
Now with all due respect to these former greats this line of attack is laughable. Over the years cricket has been played on uncovered wickets, with 4 ball overs, 8 ball overs, timeless Tests, underarm bowling, and so on. Cricket has always evolved and there has never been a need to carve out new statistics for each step forward. I find this ‘tradition’ argument tiresome, as it stands in the way of development. The experiment with the pink ball may not work, but it must be worth trying. The number of countries suitable for pink ball cricket is small anyway, the subcontinent countries for example would have a problem with evening dew on the ball. It’s not as if the red ball Test is suddenly going to fall by the wayside.
I saw the majority of the first days play at Adelaide and the worries of the behaviour of the ball seem unfounded too. New Zealand only made 202 in their first innings but there were no wickets that could be down to the ball alone. Most, in particular Brendon McCullum’s, were down to poor shot selection from the batsman. There was a fear that under the floodlights the pink ball would start to swing wildly but again I saw nothing untoward. Trent Boult got a hint of swing to dismiss David Warner but he has been doing that for years. To my eyes the ball came onto the bat fine, with no alarms, decent carry and good pace. As an aside, I thought the pink ball looked great under the lights, shining with almost neon intensity, backed by a glorious Adelaide sunset.
One of the arguments for day-night Tests was to increase spectator numbers; families could come down to the cricket after work for a few hours, as the close of play is 9.30pm or so. The opening days attendance was 47,000, with more expected today. Adelaide is always a well-attended ground so you can’t read too much into these figures, and the novelty factor has to be taken into consideration, but despite this the numbers are healthy. I can’t see any reason why this wouldn’t be the case the next time a day-night Test comes around. For surely there will be one. Like it or loathe it, the pink ball is here to stay.