Not just pink: Plenty of Test cricket pointers in Adelaide

Brett McKay Columnist

By Brett McKay, Brett McKay is a Roar Expert

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    I think it’s fair to say the first ever day-night Test match has been a raging success. The spectacle returned to the game, the pink ball stood up very well, and the cricket itself was excellent.

    Once we got past the first ever wicket taken with a pink ball, and the first boundary with a pink ball, and the first ever misfield of a pink ball by a team masseur substitute fielder, we were left with a well balanced contest between bat and ball, played on a wicket from which both bowlers and batsmen found enjoyment.

    A lot was said and written about the ball before the Test – a lot of it anxiously – and discussion since the Test started has been overwhelmingly positive. The ball showed up extremely well on TV throughout the Test, most importantly, and that certainly allayed any fears I had coming into the match.

    But beyond the ball, there were other important elements of the match in Adelaide that played just as big a role in the Test being as memorable as it was.

    I got to thinking about this on Sunday morning while taking the labrador for a walk, and when I returned home, Waleed Aly started speaking on Offsiders on ABC TV as if he had direct access to my thoughts.

    “There has been a lesson in this Test that we are overlooking, and that is that rescuing Test cricket is in some ways a much simpler affair than [playing under lights with a pink ball],” Aly said.

    “When you have conditions that mean that bowlers can move the ball and get wickets, and wickets can fall at regular intervals, and batsmen actually have to struggle in order to establish themselves, the whole game becomes so much more interesting.”

    And this is so right. It will be really easy to sit back and draw the conclusion that the ball and the lights made the Test good to watch, but there is much, much more to it than just those two, albeit significant, elements.

    A major factor was the wicket itself.

    With more grass on the pitch, the broader wicket square, and even the outfield, this Test was played in almost nothing like traditional Adelaide Oval conditions.

    Batsmen had to work hard to get ‘in’, yet could still take advantage of overpitched deliveries. There was no less value for shots even with the lusher outfield, and boundaries accounted for roughly the same percentage of runs scored as last year’s run fest against India: 49.9 per cent of total runs scored this summer, compared to 50.3 per cent of total runs last season. The total runs scored this year was around 55 per cent of the total last summer.

    Bowlers could find plenty of assistance from the wicket, but only if they got their line and lengths right.

    And yes, the extra grass everywhere was by design, to reduce the wear and tear on the pink ball. The overhead shots showed a wicket square so green that it was at times difficult to distinguish it from the outfield. And it clearly worked, because the ball held up very well; no ball was changed during the Test, and the longest innings of the match lasted into the 73rd over.

    There were only five more wickets taken this summer compared to last, yet from halfway through the evening session each day, you felt like a wicket could fall at any moment. Certainly, the new ball under lights would bend like a 1970s cop with financial troubles, but it also did plenty in the early afternoon, too.

    Steve Smith said of the wicket after the Test:

    “I think the wicket here, compared to the two Shield games that had been played on it and particularly the game we [NSW] played on it, it looked like the grass was a bit more lively.

    “I think it was the same height as the grass in the Shield game but it was probably just a tad greener, so that created a little bit more movement for the bowlers and kept the ball together and swinging for a long period.”

    It kind begs an obvious question, doesn’t it.

    Rather than the lifeless wickets we’d endured in Brisbane and Perth, why can’t more grass be left on the pitch and wicket square everywhere? Why do outfields need to be billiard table-fast?

    For all the talk around matches under lights and four-day Tests and taking the new ball earlier, why haven’t we just thought to lift the mower height up a notch?

    Adelaide has just proven that grounds can be prepared in a way that will help look after the ball, and the contest between bat and ball was all the better for it.

    Beyond the boundary, there’s no doubt the crowd added to the spectacle, and while the Adelaide Test has always been popular, the ticket pricing for such an exciting event made this Test the bargain of the summer.

    I’ve mentioned already this season that I have tickets for the Sydney Test in January, Platinum seats in the Trumper Stand that were north of $150 a pop after early-bird discounts. For the West Indies. These same seats have gone up in price easily $15 since the last Ashes summer.

    For the first ever day-night Test, you could get Platinum seats at the Adelaide Oval for around $100. Even better, you could get a Twilight Ticket that allowed you into the ground after 4pm from about $25 for general admission and up to around $75-80 for the best seats in the ground. It was excellent value that was clearly snapped up. On Day 1, the crowd figure almost doubled from 5pm.

    Yet you cannot buy the equivalent afternoon tickets for the Melbourne or Sydney Tests. This entirely underwhelming West Indian side has been priced at the same premium levels as India and England, and there is no flexibility around coming in late. It’s utter madness.

    The pricing of the Adelaide Test made it so much more attractive to cricket lovers. The South Australian Cricket Association made mention during the Test that upwards of half of all tickets sold were for interstate visitors. And why wouldn’t you, when compared to being royally stung to watch a West Indian side devoid of even household names, let alone drawcards?

    Pink balls and ‘whites under lights’ may well increase the interest in the longest form of the game, but there’s no reason why simple little things like pitch preparation and ticket pricing can’t have just as big an effect.

    Make the product attractive and people will come in droves. Play it on 22 yards of freeway and charge a fortune for it, however, and it’s no wonder the Big Bash League is so popular.

    Brett McKay
    Brett McKay

    Brett McKay is one of The Roar's good news stories and has been a rugby and cricket expert for the site since July 2009. Brett is an international and Super Rugby commentator for ABC Grandstand radio, has commentated on the Australian Under-20s Championships and National Rugby Championship live stream coverage, and has written for magazines and websites in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and the UK. He tweets from @BMcSport.

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    The Crowd Says (33)

    • Roar Guru

      December 1st 2015 @ 5:24am
      Tim Holt said | December 1st 2015 @ 5:24am | ! Report

      It is not rocket science, get the pitch right allowing fair conditions for all where players of real skill excel as well as impostors in the level are exposed rather than supported, and you will get support.

      If you were to ask me the best innings from this series, without hesitation, Peter Nevill’s in the first innings here. This, despite many run gluts from players of both teams on batting friendly pitches in the tests previously

      I think there is a pointer in this admission

      • December 1st 2015 @ 9:56am
        Matth said | December 1st 2015 @ 9:56am | ! Report

        Nevill was great. Played late, was prepared to look for singles and the odd two. Textbook innings when conditions favour the bowlers.

        Dare I say that Brad Haddin would have been out nicking an expansive drive

        • Roar Guru

          December 1st 2015 @ 10:52am
          Ryan H said | December 1st 2015 @ 10:52am | ! Report

          Yes! Advancing down the wicket off his fourth or fifth ball trying to widly slap over cover

          • December 1st 2015 @ 10:10pm
            Crispy said | December 1st 2015 @ 10:10pm | ! Report

            Please don’t mention that. I still have nightmares about it.

    • Columnist

      December 1st 2015 @ 7:22am
      Geoff Parkes said | December 1st 2015 @ 7:22am | ! Report

      Hi Brett

      Even without a CA spreadsheet in front of me, ticket prices are a no-brainer. Get the masses in, create some atmosphere and it flows through into a better TV experience and they win out financially in the long run through increased TV rights.

      It’s fantastic that, with most of us genuinely having no idea how this would turn out, the match was a resounding success. There’ll be some tougher days ahead, when the conditions don’t work out quite so well, but no reason at all why this can’t be cemented as a permanent part of the cricket calendar.

      • Columnist

        December 1st 2015 @ 9:23am
        Brett McKay said | December 1st 2015 @ 9:23am | ! Report

        Already it sounds like we’ll have two next summer Allanthus. Sounds like South Africa in Brisbane will be under lights too, and you’d imagine Pakistan in Adelaide in early December will be too. It’s actually hard to see Adelaide NOT hosting a Test under lights now..

        • Roar Guru

          December 1st 2015 @ 11:07am
          Will Sinclair said | December 1st 2015 @ 11:07am | ! Report

          Sounds like I’m going to be able to attend a day/night Test in Brisbane AND a daytime Test in Sydney every year.

          Does anyone know a good divorce lawyer?

    • Roar Guru

      December 1st 2015 @ 9:11am
      Rellum said | December 1st 2015 @ 9:11am | ! Report

      “When you have conditions that mean that bowlers can move the ball and get wickets, and wickets can fall at regular intervals, and batsmen actually have to struggle in order to establish themselves, the whole game becomes so much more interesting.”

      That is the only reason this test was interesting. Now if only the batsmen could learn to hang around more like Marsh did in the second innings we might have really great cricket that lasts into the 5th day regularly.

      • Columnist

        December 1st 2015 @ 9:25am
        Brett McKay said | December 1st 2015 @ 9:25am | ! Report

        The pitch is certainly not the only reason the Test was interesting, Rellum. Surely you’re not saying the ball and the lights played no part at all?

        • Roar Guru

          December 1st 2015 @ 9:59am
          Rellum said | December 1st 2015 @ 9:59am | ! Report

          They had minimal effect compared to the way every one has been carry on. The wickets fell equally during the day as during the night so I don’t know how any one can say the lights had any real effect on the game. Maybe the pink ball swung more but all the reports I read from the commentators and plays said there was no real difference. MArsh said the ball swung a bit more just before he got out but that could just as well be his mental demons playing up as he suddenly went into his shell in his lat 40’s.

    • Roar Guru

      December 1st 2015 @ 9:19am
      Rellum said | December 1st 2015 @ 9:19am | ! Report

      And can I add the farcical situation of Pattinson REPLACING a player in a shield game like it is some sort of second grade fill in. That is a great example of how CA sees and values their FC comp.

      • Columnist

        December 1st 2015 @ 9:29am
        Brett McKay said | December 1st 2015 @ 9:29am | ! Report

        Representative players sliding back into active games at the level below has been going on for decades; it’s not a new phenomenon. And it’s entirely appropriate – Pattinson needed to play, and Victoria were playing a Shield game. Likewise, if Melbourne 1st Grade was in the middle of a two-day game, the player Pattinson replaced dropped back into an active game, and the sliding carried down the line.

        It makes much more sense than Pattinson not playing at all. That would be valuing Shield cricket even less in fact, you’d be saying that unwanted Test players don’t need to play FC cricket..

        • Roar Guru

          December 1st 2015 @ 9:57am
          Rellum said | December 1st 2015 @ 9:57am | ! Report

          The state game needed to start a day later, there is a big difference between a lower grade player dropping down the the highest FC comp in the country.

          Edit, to follow your line of thinking there should be no issue with Pattinson replacing Starc after his injury.

          • Columnist

            December 1st 2015 @ 10:21am
            Brett McKay said | December 1st 2015 @ 10:21am | ! Report

            Players have never been able to replace injured players in games, you know that full well. Players sliding down into lower level games, however, is commonplace..

            • Roar Guru

              December 1st 2015 @ 12:38pm
              Rellum said | December 1st 2015 @ 12:38pm | ! Report

              What is the difference from replacing a injured player with a dropped player, in reality. I don’t have an issue with 2nd, 3rd or 6th grade teams suffering because a player slides down the grades but the Shield is the top level professional comp in the country and that sort of thing should not go on. I don’t care is it happened once two decades ago, it should not be the case. This was eniterly predicatable situation and the the more sensable thing would have been to make sure all shield games do not start on the same day as the test match.

              • Columnist

                December 1st 2015 @ 12:49pm
                Brett McKay said | December 1st 2015 @ 12:49pm | ! Report

                Rellum, it’s not that it happened once two decades ago, players sliding back has been going on for decades and every season since. It’s simply about representative players being able to continue playing at the lower level one their representative commitments have finished.

                So if a state game finishes midway through a grade game, player slide. Likewise if a national squad player is no longer required, he’d slide back to the next level available, which in Pattinson’s case was a Sheffield Shield game.

                It’s entirely appropriate, and ensures that the best available players play at the best available level.

    • Roar Guru

      December 1st 2015 @ 9:24am
      sheek said | December 1st 2015 @ 9:24am | ! Report

      I said this in Glenn Mitchell’s column yesterday, & I’ll repeat it here:

      “Welcome day/night test cricket, whatever took you so, so very long”.

      I saw the WSC super tests in 1978/79, & thought they were the future then.

      Little matter it took the future to arrive 37 years later.

      There is plenty of tweaking still to be done, but the basics are sound. The concept is right.

      It’s good that not everything went 100% according to plan, or vision, the first time.

      The fact that things still need tweaking will remove complacency, or any sense of hubris.

      There is still work to be done on the concept.

      Day/night tests will save test cricket as it better fits current lifestyles.

      Why, even Channel 10, who sponsor the BBL, is calling for no change to day/night for the Melbourne & Sydney tests.

      20/20 proponents worried? Who’d have ever thunk it!

      • Columnist

        December 1st 2015 @ 9:35am
        Brett McKay said | December 1st 2015 @ 9:35am | ! Report

        It was mentioned over the weekend Sheek that the players of the WSC cricket era have been surprised at just how little Test cricket has changed since the SuperTests. All the change and innovation has been in and around shorter formats, but the long form game really hasn’t changed at all save for peripheral things like boundary ropes and obviously umpiring technology. And that’s a fair point.

        On Channel 10, well they’ve got a fair point too, and either way, not even Cricket Australia would be stupid enough to play the Melbourne and Sydney Tests in direct competition to BBL games. And CA have said all along that Melbourne and Sydney were sacrosanct; you want the key holiday Tests played during the day – that also allows them to double-up with BBL games on those nights and serve up 11-12 hours of cricket per day. It would make no sense to NOT do that..

        • December 1st 2015 @ 3:50pm
          MrKistic said | December 1st 2015 @ 3:50pm | ! Report

          Which does pose the question, why do we schedule 3 tests in November while nobody is on holiday and only 1 in January when plenty of people are? How would an Australia Day weekend day/night test in Adelaide do?? The scheduling of tests does them no favour at all these days.

      • December 1st 2015 @ 11:55am
        Ash said | December 1st 2015 @ 11:55am | ! Report

        Haha Sheek back on the anti T20 agenda. Surprise surprise.

        On a serious note, it makes no sense whatsoever to play D/N Tests in Melb & Syd which are played right in the middle of the holidays and pull massive crowds as it is.

        And as a cricket fan (rather than a Test snob), its amazing to watch the Boxing Day & New Years Tests during the day & then watch a great BBL game with your entire family at night. A true cricket lovers delight.

        • Roar Guru

          December 1st 2015 @ 8:49pm
          sheek said | December 1st 2015 @ 8:49pm | ! Report



          So reporting that Channel 10’s sudden anxiety CA might change Sydney & Melbourne to day/nights, is me being anti 20/20?

          Double seriously?????

          So we’re running a comp, are we, on who is a true cricket fan, according to your narrow-minded criteria?

          I don’t care for 20/20, & that’s entirely my prerogative. You can like it or lump it, I don’t care.

    • December 1st 2015 @ 9:32am
      Steele said | December 1st 2015 @ 9:32am | ! Report

      So much more enjoyable when the bowlers have a fighting chance. Perth was a disgrace and frankly it was boring.

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