In the Pink? Edgbaston Preview

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Pink balls. Floodlights. Wickets dropping like flies at twilight. It’s time for the traditionalists to spit out their Earl Grey tea and mutter obscenities under their breath. Day-night test cricket has arrived in England.

But at least it’s not all bad news for the fuddy-duddies. Thankfully the players won’t be wearing pyjamas. Only the kids too young to stay up and watch will be wearing coloured garments.

So what can we expect in the coming five days? A bit of a circus I imagine. It won’t exactly be test cricket at we know it, but at least it might be fairly entertaining. And if it lasts more than three and half days I’ll be amazed.

It will be interesting to see how many of the pros and cons we discussed on TFT back in 2011 come to fruition. I guess it’s a positive that the players won’t be on and off for bad light.

As for the likely result, most people expect England to win handsomely. You can pick up an excellent bonus at genting sports if you’re feeling confident. However, the alien conditions could give the Windies a sniff.

Although Stuart Law’s side have only beaten a top eight nation once in the last eight years, they’ve got some dangerous bowlers who might, if they hit form and conditions suit, knock England over cheaply. I’ve always liked Kemar Roach, Shannon Gabriel has got some wheels, and Jason Holder can land the ball in the right spot more often than not.

Imagine you’re Mark Stoneman for a second. You’ve waited your whole life to make your test debut, and now you’ve got to face the rapid Gabriel at a time of day when picking up the ball is almost impossible.

It could be worse I guess. Imagine facing Joel Garner, now the Windies team manager, in conditions like that. Good luck picking up any colour ball when the bowler’s release point is six feet higher than the sight screen.

The big question for me, however, is whether this day-night game is really necessary. Couldn’t we just play the first test at a normal time of day? Yes I know that the first two day-night tests at Adelaide, and the UAE, attracted big crowds and an above average TV audience, but England doesn’t have the same pleasant climate.

Fortunately the weather forecast for Birmingham over the coming days could be a lot worse, but temperatures could still plummet to around 12 degrees by 9pm each day. That’s not exactly ideal cricket-watching conditions, especially when you factor in 15-20 mph winds.

Hopefully the section of the crowd that forgets to bring a coat and jumper will be too inebriated to notice.

I can understand the desire to experiment with day-night test cricket in parts of the world where the longest form’s popularity is dwindling, but surely the UK is different? Test cricket is in good health on our shores. Why do we need a gimmick like day-night tests?

However, I’m perfectly happy to be proved wrong. If Warwickshire make more money than normal, and the gimmick brings cricket some exposure, then I’ll happily eat my words.

I just hope that day-night test cricket doesn’t take over and become the norm. Conditions will be slightly different and the ball will be pink. This means that the integrity of test cricket’s history and statistics could be somewhat compromised.

I realise this statement makes me sound like an a hundred-year-old stick-in-the-mud, but tradition is important to me. Comprende?

And I’m more than slightly annoyed that the local authorities now want every test at the Adelaide Oval to be a day-nighter. I used to really enjoy the Adelaide test. Why fix something that was never broken and always quite wonderful?

Back to the subject of pink balls, does anyone quite understand why pink is supposedly the easiest colour to see? I always thought it would be more sensible just to use a white ball. And what’s wrong with the yellow ball they use in tennis?

I know they’ve tested different colours, and the white ball scuffs up quite badly, but pink still seems a bit random.

Anyway, I shall be watching with interest over the next few days. I just hope that conditions don’t become too farcical as the lights begin to take effect.

Did you know that 40% of all the wickets taken in the Adelaide and UAE day-night tests fell at twilight? It will be really weird if we start seeing tactical declarations because teams don’t want to bat between eight and nine o’clock.

James Morgan 

Written in collaboration with bonus.co.uk

23 comments

  • Well there’s one positive for starters. It’s got people talking.

    I think the main positive although it could just be a one off is ticket sales, Day 2 is sold out and Day 3 is close. This wouldn’t have happened for a day test v the Windies.
    I’m going and the only reason is I expect it to be the only one in this country ever played. Or certainly every 4 years anyhow. It’s a warm up for Adelaide , and not to benefit English cricket.
    We don’t need day night tests over here, although I’d love a tweak to the playing hours so working people could watch a bit more.
    As for the action and it’s effects, let’s wait and see, there’s been 4 tests with various reports so far.
    It may not have a lot of effect at all here. The play is scheduled to finish at 9 and sunset is half an hour before that.
    As you say the Windies attack is pretty decent so the pink ball may level things up, that is until they bat. I can’t see how the make 300.

  • I’m all for giving day/night Test cricket a try in England and seeing how it goes. More than perhaps any other sport, “tradition” is too often cited in cricket as an excuse to resist change.

    As for stats, Test cricket has been played across a wide variety of pitches and playing conditions across its history – so I don’t see why day/night Tests are that much different. Pitches are much better now than they were in the early days, but nobody suggests records of Tests played either then or now are in any way invalid. Day/night ODIs have always been treated just like day games for the purpose of stats without anyone questioning their integrity.

    I think the weather will ultimately determine if day/night Test cricket is a success in England – if people leave early because it’s too cold in the final session, this will hit food/drinks sales and make it less commercially attractive.

  • I am prepared to go in with an open mind, personally think England are undercooked with the pink ball and it needed more testing before its shown off before a packed out Edgbaston.

    The games in Australia have been decent in terms of entertainment so fingers crossed

  • It seems to me, listening to the commentators, that there are a lot of new factors being introduced, few have anything to do with skill. The high seam on the pink ball makes for a massive bowling advantage with the new ball and as the seam wears and the ball softens batsmen reckon it becomes difficult to hit off the square. Apparently there have been instances where token big hitters have been sent in early on as sacrificial lambs, as batting was something of a lottery against the new ball. Declarations may be contrived just to make sure you get to bowl in the last session when seeing will be at its most difficult.
    I don’t really understand how day-night will increase attendances as you still have to take time off work, and younger children will find it difficult, so fewer families may attend. It seems to me just another novelty gimmick to attract attention from the never ending story of the interminable football season.
    As for the weather, having just returned from a festival, I can vouch for the fact that once the sun goes down at this time of year the temperature plummets. Will people want to sit muffled to the eyeballs watching the last hour or so and if folk do go early will this hit the event commercially?
    However as the matches have produced many conflicting reports we should give it a go. The players seem excited about it, so I guess we should be too. The more we play these games the more data there will be to analyse their merit.

  • Really looking forward to this test… Lets see if all the claims regarding the pink ball not swinging are true or not. Remember a domestic game back in India though were it swung like hell and the match was over within 3 days

  • The argument about statistical integrity is one I’ve seen in several places but to me it’s absolute bull.

    The existing test records contain statistics matches were played over 3, 4 or 5 days or were timeless. They were played with 6 or 8 ball overs. The lbw law insisted the ball pitch inline, or not pitch outside leg. They had DRS, or some DRS or no DRS. Pitches were uncovered, covered, or matting.

    A lot of these differences in conditions were concurrent, depending on territory (e.g. while england had 3 or 4 day tests and 6 -ball overs, Australia had 5 day 8 ball overs; England played on uncovered grass pitches, South Africa played on matting).

    Whatever the arguments for or against day/night pink ball tests, the statistical angle is a complete red herring

    • It depends what eras you’re comparing. I don’t think many look back at the time when pitches were uncovered and draw exact parallels with today’s players. It’s impossible to compare Bradman with Lara for example. However, pink ball cricket may make it harder to compare more modern players, from the last decade or so, if it becomes the norm. I’m not saying this argument is flawless, and it’s certainly not the most important consideration in play, but it’s not completely irrelevant.

      When it comes to stats, a far bigger issue is the decline of quality test bowling around the world. Cook & Root’s hundreds on Thursday were ridiculously easy. It was like taking candy from a baby. An average in the mid-thirties against Marshall, Ambrose, Walsh etc is surely worth a lot more than an average of 60+ against the sub par bowlers the Windies put out yesterday. It was really sad to see. The benchmark for a world class batsman used to be 40. Now it’s more like 50+. I guess statistical change is inevitable but that doesn’t mean we all have to like it 🙂

  • A few thoughts on the pink ball test after attending yesterday.
    Firstly the pink ball is easy to see from the stands, but it definitely seems to come off the bat slower and make a different (clunkier) noise.
    That last session is gonna be tough on a normal summers day in England though, it was getting quite nippy by the time the rain came, people had gloves, blankets and were queing for coffee (not much of that in the Hollies by the sound of it though)
    Quite frankly I was pleased it was heavy rain as I wouldn’t have welcomed hanging around till 10pm though.

By James Morgan

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