The wheels have been set in motion for the first floodlit Test match to ever take place, when New Zealand tour Australia in 2015.
It could see the return of a pink ball, which has been trialled in domestic games in the past. The traditional Boxing Day Test at the MCG and the New Year’s Test at the SCG will not be tampered with, but a venue has still yet to be confirmed for the November meeting.
However, this will not be the first occasion where five-day cricket has been played past sundown. When England toured New Zealand in 2002, bad weather meant that artificial light was used to make conditions playable.
But in this instance, the ICC are condoning a full match to be played at night, with both participants charged with developing a pink ball that is as close as possible to a red one.
New Zealand and Australia can look to Division Two of the County Championship if they are in need of inspiration. Back in 2011, Kent and Glamorgan – both resigned to finishing at the foot of the table – agreed to play a day/night first-class game, which utilised two different pink balls.
A Tiflex and a Kookaburra ball were used in the first and second innings respectively, but there wasn’t a huge surge in crowds for that experiment – although that may have been due to the cold September winds that blew through the St Lawrence Ground.
The main thinking behind this innovation is to attract more fans through the turnstiles at times when many are working during the day. With play starting in the afternoon and running through until 9-10pm, it is hoped that crowds can be rejuvenated.
ICC chief executive, David Richardson, is fully behind the movement to further trial the prospect of day/night Test cricket.
He said: "The discussion on day-night Tests started in 2008 and I'm pleased that we are now at a stage where two of our members are contemplating playing the first ever day-night Test.
"The MCC and some of our members, including Cricket Australia, have trialled pink balls in different conditions and the feedback indicates that significant improvements have been made to the quality of the ball.”
As Richardson mentions, the MCC have played a similar format when competing against the county champions in Abu Dhabi. But these pre-season encounters have had some issues with visibility, particularly as the sun is just starting to set.
The twilight zone could prove problematic for Test sides. Another potential issue is that players may be discontented about their statistics from these games counting towards their overall records.
If the game is diminished, and is not the same spectacle as Test matches that start at 11am, then the concept should not be pursued any further.
However, if the day/night contest between Australia and New Zealand is a success – just as World Series Cricket proved in the 1970s – then it could well signal a new direction for the sport in terms of prioritising the consumer.
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