A historic day for English cricket will take place on August 17th as Joe Root’s men kick off their test series against the West Indies in the first ever day-night test match in England at Edgbaston.
In the biggest shake up to an English cricket summer in recent history, England are set to kick-off their test series against the West Indies in a day-night test match – the first ever in England and only the fifth in the history of test cricket.
Day-night test matches have been played mainly in Australia, where three of the four day-night tests have taken place, the other, being played in Dubai between Pakistan and the West Indies.
In Australian conditions, the day-night tests have been considered extremely successful as over 125,000 fans piled in to the Adelaide Oval over the course of Australia’s “dead rubber” against South Africa last November, whilst television ratings also skyrocketed during the test.
However, there is some trepidation about how English conditions will fare in a day-night test match, especially with the pink ball under the floodlights.
The ECB scheduled a round of County Championship fixtures to be played under day-night conditions at the end of June where England players were available to practice against the pink ball, but in typical English fashion, bad weather heavily disrupted the round of fixtures.
England wicket-keeper Johnny Bairstow was left unconvinced by the pink ball during the short amount of play Yorkshire managed to squeeze in against Surrey during the day-night fixtures as he said: “The pink ball swung for a little bit, and then stopped, it seemed pretty soft, almost like a bowling machine ball and it didn’t really do much after the first 15 overs.”
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Despite the fears of players and pundits, sales have reportedly been better than anticipated, with over 45,000 tickets being sold for the first three days of the test by April, with that number expected to rise up to 60,000.
Not only have Edgbaston seen ticket sales soar for the test match, but the day-night format has helped to bring in a new market of cricket fans, with 40% of ticket sales made to people who have never bought test match tickets previously – suggesting that either the timing of the fixture, or the spectacle of a day-night test is helping to bring in a new audience.
The question however should be asked, are day-night test matches going to eradicate the traditionalism of test cricket?
Test match cricket has been renowned with early morning starts, lunch and tea and the red ball, but day-night test matches propose such a radical change to a regular test match day. Will the test still resemble the regular format or will it be too dissimilar?
These aspects of the test format have never been played around with. Test match cricket is the purists game and has been left unchanged. It is the One Day Internationals and Twenty20 games that have been experimented with and many argue it should remain that way.
But test cricket is on the wane, especially outside of England. Attendances are plummeting and players are disappearing in to the Twenty20 circus as the big money and flashing lights of the shortest form of the game has taken over, even domestically.
Players are naturally preferring to be paid huge amounts of money by a franchise side owned by a millionaire businessman to play for three hours, rather than be paid half of their Twenty20 earnings to represent their country in test matches for five days.
If some of the biggest stars such as AB de Villiers and Chris Gayle are staying away from test match cricket, then it’s no surprise that fans are too. Something has to give if the test format is to last around the world, which is where the introduction of day-night test matches has come in.
The ticket sales and television ratings from Australia’s fixture against South Africa speaks for itself. Fans are excited at the prospect of something different, strolling in to the ground to watch the final session after work, or being able to watch on television until late at night.
Fans are intrigued as to how a pink ball will behave and how will the floodlights affect the game. It is this intrigue that means more tickets will be sold and more people will want to watch test match cricket again.
Understandably, players are concerned about the pink ball and there is a long way to go in its development yet. The colour of the seam has already been changed from white to black in an attempt to improve visibility.
If the ball is constantly being tweaked and updated after every series, how are players expected to train and be able to perform with the pink ball?
Perhaps other equipment needs adapting for the pink ball too. Will sightscreens need to be changed? Will pitches need to be altered so the pink ball does not lose its colour? How will the pink ball fare in sub-continent conditions?
Whatever happens with the pink ball and day-night tests, more fans are able to attend, more fans are able to watch on television and test cricket will have a talking point, a buzz similar to that of the Twenty20 where everyone has an opinion.
Although day-night test cricket is a work in progress, it has the potential to be revolutionary for the test format. Tradition has taken the test game this far, but the cracks have been appearing for a long time and if the purists want to continue watching test cricket, they’ll have to accept it’s time to change.
This day-night test match against the West Indies is the only official day-night fixture that England will play prior to the second Ashes test, which is also set to be a day-night match in Adelaide.
We want to hear what your opinions are on the pink ball and day-night test matches, is it a revolutionary step for Test Cricket or should day-night matches be kept especially for limited overs cricket? Get in touch via Facebook and Twitter!
Also, if you are heading to Edgbaston for the day-night test match on the 17th August, we would love to see your pictures! Be sure to post to our social media channels!
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