Day-night Test cricket: will the pink ball save the sport?
Australia and New Zealand are about to play the first floodlit Test match
A new era for cricket will begin tonight when Australia and New Zealand begin the first ever day-night Test match in Adelaide, to be played with a pink ball.
The concept has been a long time coming and is designed to address the steep decline in attendances at Tests. It has been described as the biggest innovation in the sport's 138-year history.
"It is a significant moment in the history of Test cricket but it also represents a continuation of the evolution of the game," says Brydon Coverdale of Cricinfo. "The change has been made largely for fans, so they can watch on TV in prime time or head to the ground after work to catch the second half of the day's action."
The innovation addresses many of the problems facing Test cricket: it will be easier for spectators to attend on weekdays, ticket prices will be reduced for those arriving after work, it gives the game a much-needed marketing fillip.
But will it catch on? "These twin novelties – of pink ball and floodlit Test cricket – are likely to prove a hit in Adelaide, as it is the perfect venue for this experiment," says Scyld Berry in the Daily Telegraph. "The question is whether they will be sufficient to regenerate Test cricket worldwide... It is asking a lot of pink balls and floodlights to popularise Test cricket in the long term."
The introduction of pink-ball cricket is necessary, says Michael Atherton in The Times. Outside England Test attendances have been falling, and the first two matches of the Australia New Zealand series were played in front of tiny crowds.
"A game with no live audience has no future. The sooner everyone in cricket understands that, the easier the acceptance of change will become," he says.
He dismisses fears that day-night Tests will skew the statistics which make up such a key part of the sport's appeal and alter the traditions of the game.
"The game has been in constant flux," he argues. "As for the importance of history and tradition, surely stasis is less important than seeing a format of the game that tests players to the limit like no other flourishing and thriving."
The only remaining issue concerns the pink ball. And there are concerns over its "suitability, visibility and durability", says Atherton.
White and pink cricket balls are coloured with pigment, unlike the traditional red ball, explains The Guardian. And the way they are manufactured means that they lose their colour as they age and are harder to polish, making life harder for bowlers.