Adelaide, Nov 26 (IANS) Cricket Australia (CA) will on Friday stage the sport’s first day-night Test match, a bold experiment which the sport’s authorities around the world hope will breathe new life into the dying five-day format.
The match – the third Test between Australia and New Zealand – will be played at the Adelaide Oval and ticket sales for the historic event have been brisk, with the opening day expected to turn up a record crowd of more than 40,000, reports Xinhua.
And the success of this experiment will be measured in both crowd numbers and television ratings; if there is demonstrable public support for the new playing hours of 2 p.m.-10 p.m. (rather than the conventional 11 a.m.-6 p.m.), then CA may be tempted to make day-night Test cricket a fixture in each summer’s calendar.
The momentous occasion has garnered extensive publicity at home and abroad, with the international cricket community intently tuning in to gauge the viability of the concept.
Earlier this week, Indian skipper Virat Kohli pronounced the Test a “landmark” event for cricket traditionalists and praised the two sides’ willingness to try the daring idea.
“It is a big experiment. It is a big step towards changing something in Test cricket. I hope it works,” Kohli told reporters on Wednesday. “Hopefully… it will be a step which we all might remember a few years down the line.”
CA chief executive James Sutherland, the man responsible for approving the match, has a lot riding on the success of the third Test. The opening two Tests of the three-Test series, which Australia leads 1-0, were met with yawns, with lifeless pitches in both Brisbane and Perth creating a “batsman’s paradise” where bowlers had to slave for wickets. Sutherland has claimed the floundering format is long overdue for a facelift, and should follow the course of the game’s condensed versions – one-day and Twenty20 (T20) cricket, which are largely staged at night – in a move to television’s coveted prime-time slot.
“This is about trying to protect Test cricket for the future, not ruin it,” Sutherland said at CA’s annual general meeting late last month. If a roaring success, the game could join Melbourne’s Boxing Day Test and Sydney’s New Year Test as Australia’s third marquee long-form match. In recent years, the only Test series guaranteed to fill stadiums have been against India and the nation’s greatest rival, England, during an Ashes series.
Indeed, Sutherland has described the build-up to Friday as “Ashes-like” in its ability to attract the interest of the most dispassionate and casual cricket observers. Earlier this week, South Australia’s chief executive Keith Bradshaw forecast a record 40,000 spectators for the first day’s play, surpassing Adelaide’s Ashes series’ opening day crowds in 2013 (33,943) and 2010 (38,615).
In 2008, the last time New Zealand toured Australian shores, the Kiwis only drew a paltry 16,000 through the gates for the opening day of the Adelaide Test. But the day-night stunt could be over before it’s begun, if the pink-coloured ball – which cricket manufacturer Kookaburra has been developing for the past 10 years – does not have the durability of Test cricket’s conventional red ball.
The red ball – which cannot be seen out of the bowler’s hand in the night sky – has been replaced by a pink version which allows the batsmen and fielders to follow the ball at both day and night.
Kookaburra maintains the ball is ready for the big stage, but some of Australia’s biggest names have lined up to criticise it after several trials in the nation’s domestic competition, the Sheffield Shield, and overseas.
Australian fast bowler Mitchell Starc said he was “yet to be convinced” of the ball’s visibility, durability and ability to swing after an Ashes tour trial in Britain earlier this year, a call echoed by fellow Australian regulars Peter Siddle, Josh Hazlewood and Adam Voges.
To compound matters, the few spectators that did attend Sheffield Shield pink-ball trials also called into question the visibility of the newest version. However, any talk of the ball’s shortcomings will be overshadowed on Friday by the one-year anniversary of the shock death of Australian cricketer, Philip Hughes.
On November 27 last year, the diminutive batsman was struck on the side of the neck while playing for South Australia against his home state of New South Wales after misjudging a short-pitched ball. He suffered severe brain hemorrhaging and died two days later in a Sydney hospital just shy of his 26th birthday.
Hughes will be honoured during the Test’s first drinks break. It would be somehow poignant and fitting if the anniversary of Hughes’ death coincided with the rebirth of the game’s traditional Test format. –Indo-Asian news Service sam/vt
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