Just as businesses must keep up with customers’ evolving needs, cricket must adapt as family time becomes increasingly precious and sports fans’ behaviour changes.
Acknowledging the challenge of attracting big crowds to the traditional five-day Test matches, day-night test cricket has been talked about for a long time. The International Cricket Council has supported it for some years and its Cricket Committee encouraged its development.
After all, almost all major sports now play their big matches at night. Cricket has already introduced one-day and Twenty20 internationals, both of which can be played at night, along with the enormously popular KFC Big Bash League.
Cricket Australia aspired to staging a day-night Test to ensure Test cricket remains a central part of our popular culture and enable more fans to watch Tests by playing outside work and school hours.
That meant developing a cricket ball clearly visible to players and spectators in both natural and artificial light, as well as to fans watching on TV. It also had to last 80 overs without giving an unfair advantage to either batsman or bowler.
The Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) initiated the pink ball in 2008, in conjunction with cricket ball manufacturers Kookaburra* and Dukes+. It was first used in MCC-sanctioned matches in the UK and in the United Arab Emirates before Cricket Australia took it to the next level.
Three iterations over three years
The Test match against New Zealand held at Adelaide Oval in late November was the culmination of three years solid work between Cricket Australia, Kookaburra, the states and the National Performance Squad.
The pink ball in the 2013/14 Sheffield Shield matches was based on the MCC ball used in Dubai, namely a white seam and used black sight screens. The seam was difficult to see and players reported the ball got soft more quickly than the traditional red ball.
Kookaburra did more work. After off-season trials in the training sessions of the National Performance Squad, a pink ball with green seam that used white sight screens was successfully trialled in Shield matches in the 2014/15 season.
Given feedback the ball was least visible during dusk, the playing schedule was adjusted so the traditional 40-minute break coincided with the dark twilight. That too won approval.
Cricket Australia worked with the architects of Adelaide Oval to predict where the sun would be in 15-minute increments and calculated where the shade would be on the field of play. At the first break of the Adelaide Test it reached the edge of the wicket, as predicted.
Subtle changes in the ball’s manufacturing process necessitated more grass on the wicket to protect the ball’s lacquer finish. Both Test captains commented favourably.
The Adelaide Test achieved the highest non-Ashes attendance in the Oval’s history and two-thirds of fans surveyed said they’re more likely to attend a day-night Test match than one played during the day.
Recognising the format’s potential to revitalise Test cricket across the globe, Cricket Australia will work with visiting countries to schedule more day-night Tests in seasons to come.
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