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First-Ever Pink-Ball Test Match

Jishnu Brahmaputra
February 21, 2022, 12:50
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First-Ever Pink-Ball Test Match

In the era that we live in, almost everything worth watching is being made compact for consumers who have increasingly shorter attention spans. Even sports broadcasters are obsessed with making things quicker for audiences, with slow over rates being heavily punished and even T20s being turned into T10s as expedited doses of fun.

In such a situation, the viability of the only single match in all of sports that takes five days to complete was in doubt. However, it was noticed that cricket under the lights had much higher viewership and attendance due to most people being off from their work or school hours. That’s when the idea of a day/night Test hit cricket authorities.

The Changes

The first issue with a day/night Test, of course, was the colour of the ball. Test cricket’s traditional red ball would be difficult to spot under the lights, and a white ball would be hard to separate from the kits. After experiments with several colours, the decision was taken to settle for pink.

However, many cricket boards and clubs expressed a lack of willingness to try out the new ball and the new format. It took a while, but at last, the first pink-ball match became an ODI between the women’s teams of England and Australia on 5 July 2009.

After initial trials, the concern wasn’t just limited to the colour. The pink ball required extra shine to maintain its hue, and thus provided much more lateral movement early on in its lifespan. This was — and remains — an issue of concern for cricketing bodies.

The First-Ever Day/Night Test

It took a whopping 6 years and 4 months for things to get to the very top level, but it finally happened. The first-ever day/night pink ball Test between two international sides took place between Australia and New Zealand at the Adelaide Oval on November 27, 2015.

Australia already had a 1-0 lead in the series heading into the third and last Test of the tour. They had a strong lineup featuring the likes of David Warner, Steven Smith, Josh Hazlewood, and Mitchell Starc.

The Kiwis on the other hand were struggling against their long-time regional dominators. They were far from being the powerful force they are today, despite the squad being somewhat similar. They boasted the likes of Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor, Trent Boult, and Tim Southee.

Successful with the toss, the Black Caps elected to bat, but couldn’t really get a strong partnership going. Losing wickets at regular intervals, they managed to limp to a miserable 202, helped by a 50 from Tom Latham and 31 from BJ Watling. For the Aussies, it was an all-round bowling performance, with Starc and Hazlewood being the top wicket-takers with 3 each.

The Aussie innings wasn’t much better, with only Steve Smith’s 53 and Peter Nevill’s 66 standing out until an important last-wicket cameo by Mitchell Starc managed to give them a slender 22-run lead. It was an all-round attack from the Kiwis, too, with Doug Bracewell’s trio of scalps being supported by two each from Mark Craig and Trent Boult.

New Zealand’s second innings ended up being only marginally better, as Mitchell Santner’s 45  and Ross Taylor’s 32 elevated them to 208. Bowler Doug Bracewell also chipped in with an important 27. For the Baggy Greens, it was the Josh Hazlewood show. The then-young bowler took 6, with part-timer Mitchell Marsh outdoing himself to take three as the Aussies set themselves up for a win.

Chasing 187, the Aussies went through some nerve-wracking moments, but managed to squeeze out a positive result courtesy of David Warner’s quick 35, Shaun Marsh’s important 49, and 28 each from his brother Mitchell and Adam Voges. Trent Boult was superb with his fifer, but he couldn’t stop the Aussies from winning it with 3 wickets to spare.

Further Appearances of the Pink Ball

Despite the successful carrying out of the inaugural pink-ball Test, it took almost a year for the ball to be employed again — this time in Dubai. The match was between Pakistan and the West Indies, and it looked as though the shine was irrelevant as the Men in Green posted a commanding 579-3 before declaring. The West Indies fought back strongly, even taking the ‘hosts’ out for just 123 on their second time out, but fell short of victory.

The pink ball reappeared just a month later in another Adelaide Test, this time with South Africa visiting. Despite a strong effort from the Proteas, however, the match ended up going in the home side’s favour. This was another low-scoring affair, and opponents of the pink ball once again reared their heads to discourage its use.

Future of the Format

While there have been many pink-ball matches since that crucible in Adelaide, and day/night Tests have become a regular thing in certain parts of the world, there are still those who complain about the issues presented by the ball under certain conditions — especially since it still causes low-scoring matches in Australia.

With India joining the fray, however, it looks like it might be. Despite teams such as South Africa and Bangladesh initially opposing day/night Tests due to issues with the ball, they may have to reluctantly take part in such matches anyway — especially due to the inflated attendance and viewership numbers of the format. This means that despite plenty of aversion towards them from players, boards, and even some supporters, it is most likely that day/night pink ball Tests will be around for a while.

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