Australia and New Zealand are set to play the first day-night test match ever. After discussions progressed between the two countries last week it’s decided that the historical match between these two teams will be played with a pink ball, despite some concerns arising from players after pink-ball trials in the Sheffield Shield last summer, Some Shield players had no problems with the pink ball, others reported trouble seeing the ball or its seam, and there were concerns about how quickly it softened and lost its swing. James Sutherland, the Cricket Australia (CA) chief executive, and David White, his New Zealand Cricket (NZC) counterpart, met in Melbourne last week during the International Cricket Council’s (ICC) annual conference to discuss the idea, and both bodies said in a joint statement that the match is likely to be staged when New Zealand tour Australia in November next year, though the venue is still to be determined. Adelaide and Hobart are the two possible venues for the inaugural match.
James Sutherland, the Cricket Australia (CA) chief executive said, “We are serious about pushing ahead with the concept of day-night Test cricket, We feel it will only strengthen the position and possibilities for Test cricket in many parts of the world. There are many Test matches played during non-holiday periods when adults are at work and kids are at school. That’s not an ideal way to promote the highest form of the game. In fact, there isn’t a major team sport in the world that schedules the majority of its premium content during the working week. We’re not talking about playing the Boxing Day or New Year’s Test at night. The summer holiday period in Australia really lends itself to Test cricket, but at other times of the year it can be difficult for fans to attend or watch Test matches, be it here or in other parts of the world. That’s really at the heart of the issue. The challenge is to try to make Test cricket more accessible for fans.”
A further round of day-night Shield games will be played this season and New Zealand are also set to undertake their own trials, though not in first-class cricket, as the inexorable push towards a day-night Test continues. All three matches lasted into the fourth day and Cricket Australia’s chief executive James Sutherland said the most encouraging aspect of the day-night trials was that the scores were consistent with the rest of the Shield season. However, he conceded that a pink ball was unlikely ever to behave exactly like a red ball and said that “everyone is going to need to be accepting” of that.
He added, “What we learnt from that last year is that there are no really obvious reasons why we shouldn’t be continuing to progress with our intent around day-night Test match, We’re certainly very excited about the concept and we’re serious about really properly pushing ahead now. The pink ball, just like the white ball, doesn’t behave exactly the same as the red ball. But … the ball is the same for both teams. What we were pleased about was that in looking at the Shield results from this round that we played, the statistics in terms of runs and wickets were very much on par with average for the whole Shield season last year. There weren’t any rogue behaviours.I don’t think we’re ever going to get to a stage where everyone is completely satisfied or comfortable with it. If we go back 30-odd years in time when the first ever day-night one-day internationals were played, I’m sure there was that same level of trepidation that some stakeholders including players might have had about day-night one-day cricket and white balls.”
White said CA had been at the forefront of exploring a pathway towards day-night Tests and that NZC looked forward to contributing – especially in terms of helping develop a new pink ball suitable for Test conditions. He said, “Australia continue to assess conditions to ensure they are appropriate to stage Test cricket at night, and we fully support that duty of care,” said White. “Ensuring the ball behaves as closely as possible to the red ball is vital for the success of this initiative. We’re scheduling a trial fixture in the upcoming season so we can examine more closely issues such as dew, and its effect on the condition of the ball”
David Richardson, the ICC chief executive, said he supported the idea of playing the day-night Test and he said, “The discussions on day-night Tests started in 2008 and I’m pleased that after the ICC Board gave its thumbs-up during the 2012 annual conference and following extensive trials and debates, we are now at a stage when two of our members are contemplating playing the first-ever day-night Test,” he said. “The MCC and some of our members, including Cricket Australia, have trialled pink balls in different conditions and the feedback indicates that significant improvements have been made to the quality of the ball.”
The ICC approved day-night Test cricket in 2012, leaving the finer points up to the participating boards. David Richardson, the ICC’s chief executive said he was pleased the concept appeared close to becoming a reality.
David Gyngell, the chief executive of Nine Entertainment Company said, “It’s something we’ve all kicked around for a considerable period and the time feels right to take the next step. Nine has had a long and proud record as a lead innovator in cricket coverage, and we look forward to playing our part in what could well be a critical new direction in the course of our great game”