Few could have predicted the impact that the introduction of T20 cricket would have on cricket, from playing styles, booming TV ratings and crowd engagement to scouting out specialist players for each format of the game and numerous domestic leagues.
It’s been a true cricket revolution. Although it was seen as a bit of crash-and-bash fun by purists at the time of its introduction ten years ago, T20 has gone on to define the landscape of modern cricket.
Pink-ball day-night Test cricket has faced a similar level of skepticism from cricket administrators, but day-night Tests offered the theatrical soap opera story line of a Test played out in prime time, in cooler conditions and the bulk of play occurring in hours friendly to workers.
However, despite the promise offered by the change, things have been stalling. Each day-night Test attracts a chorus of criticism from the old guard, in addition to players voicing their discomfort about playing with the pink ball, despite having the chance to battle out some scrappy, attritional Test cricket in front of sell-out crowds instead of the ghostly empty stadiums that many Test cricketers are becoming sadly accustomed to.
Change can’t occur overnight and in the five years since the introduction of the new format almost every single Test nation has played at least one game with a pink cherry. With India recently attracting record crowds to their thrashing of Bangladesh in their inaugural experiment with Tests under lights, as well as a scattering of pink-ball Tests down under before Christmas, this is where the main Test-playing nations are at when it comes to putting Test cricket under lights.
The torch-bearers of pink-ball cricket, the Aussies brought Test cricket under lights in 2015 and have remained faithful ever since, with at least one pink-ball match each year thereafter, excluding 2018 when the touring Indian squad refused to partake. The Aussies are pushing for a pink-ball clash against India in 2020 to continue the trend, with the Adelaide Test fast becoming a regular day-night fixture.
(AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)
Despite losing by an innings in their first effort, nothing will take away the historic credit Bangladesh has gained by facing off against India in the inaugural day-night Test for the two squads. New skipper Mominul Haque noted afterwards that he could see pink-ball matches become a regular part of the Tigers’ domestic leagues. This is a positive sign of player support moving forward in arguably the most cricket-mad nation.
Despite having played three day-night clashes, the Poms don’t appear overly keen on the idea of day-night Tests. The ECB has scrapped pink-ball matches from their cluttered domestic calendar, signalling a strong desire to keep things firmly in the daylight.
The future of pink-ball Test cricket depends on where the Indian conglomerate takes things. They are the biggest commercial market in the world and if the recent match-up against Bangladesh is anything to go by, the interest is strong in the sub-continent – every day of their recent clash sold out. BCCI president Sourav Ganguly said: “Just imagine the frenzy if you have teams like England, South Africa and Australia playing pink-ball Tests against India. Think what the crowd will get to witness.”
While the Kiwis have been happy enough to go along with the twilight Test cricket idea in the past – they’ll play one in Perth against Australia next month – there doesn’t appear to be any significant plans for another foray into the pink-ball realm in the near future. India’s tour of New Zealand next year could provide an opportunity for another, but things have been tight-lipped thus far.
Perhaps the most enthusiastic proponent of the new format after Australia, the Pakistanis have hosted two games in Dubai. Although nothing is scheduled, the multiple green lights in the past from the PCB indicate a cautious yet open-minded approach to day-night games. We can only hope that a Pakistan versus India day-nighter will happen in our lifetimes.
South Africa took centre stage in a scintillating day-night thriller against Australia in 2016, and they dipped their toe into the water with a fixture against Zimbabwe at home the following year. Nothing further is planned in the way of day-nighters, but with Test cricket only having a small share of interest at home, it would seem sensible to gift Proteas fans with more day-night Tests. “I think there’s a real future for it,” said skipper Faf Du Plessis when quizzed about day-night Test cricket back in 2016, with seamer Vernon Philander also giving it a careful tick of approval.
The Lions have had plenty of experience in pink-ball cricket, with a 68-run triumph over Pakistan in 2017 and a four-wicket win against the West Indies followed by a drubbing at the hands of a fired-up Aussie squad at the Gabba at the start of 2019. Despite having sharply contrasting experiences of the format, Sri Lanka has been far quicker to embrace the prospect of day-night Tests than their contemporaries. Often the lab rats for experimentation in world cricket – Sri Lanka will field the first Test team to visit Pakistan in over a decade in 2020 – expect to see them ready and willing to get back under lights soon.
Similar to Sri Lanka, the Windies have been more than happy to give pink Tests a crack, despite going down to England, the Lions, and Pakistan in all three of their outings. With Test cricket hitting rock bottom in terms of popularity in the Caribbean but T20 on the rise, it’ll take some serious revamping of the traditional format to keep the Windies on the right track for the future. Given the strong interest generated in day-night Tests after their lone outing in 2018, future twilight Tests are on the cards.
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The third-place playoff of the 1997 ICC Trophy, as the World Cup qualifier was then known, in Malaysia saw Scotland beat Ireland by 51 runs on the Duckworth-Lewis method, which gave them a spot at the 1999 World Cup.