The difference between day and night Test cricket

April 18, 2017

This summer will see another exciting Edgbaston Test match as England face the West Indies in August, and fans booking corporate hospitality will be able to see the battle of bat and ball in the middle while enjoying some superb facilities.

However, this year's Test will have some crucial differences. The start time will be in mid-afternoon, the ball will be bright pink and the game will continue under lights until 10 o'clock at night.

This will be the first ever day-night Test match in England, the newest innovation in the sport. While day-night one-day cricket has been around since the 1970s and has been played at international level in England since 2000, this is a very different game from Test cricket. From its pioneering days in Australia, day-night limited overs cricket has been played with coloured clothing and a white ball, the latter being highly visible under the lights.

Traditional red balls are less reflective and while floodlights can be used to enhance natural light in Test matches, this does not guarantee play. This can lead to frustrations, such as when the final Ashes Test of the 2013 series at the Kia Oval was drawn with England needing 24 more runs from the last four overs.

Day-night Tests were mooted as a way of boosting attendances around the world. While Tests in England have healthy crowds, this is not always so elsewhere. The idea was hatched that working people who could not take time off during the day to go to games could do so in the evening, as they do now for games like Twenty20 fixtures. 

However, Test cricket's rich and enduring traditions precluded the use of white balls and coloured clothing. As the nearest alternative colour, pink has emerged as the new red.

To date, five Tests have been played with the pink ball. Three of these have taken place at the Adelaide Oval, where the short twilight and dry, dew-less evening climate were deemed ideal. A new era of Test cricket began in November 2015 as Australia faced New Zealand.

With the pitch having more grass than the usual Adelaide surface and the pink seam harder to spot, the game was fairly low-scoring, with totals ranging from 202 to 224, but since then the seam has been made darker and easier to see, and other games have seen more normal scores for a ground used to seeing a lot of runs. Moreover, the crowds have been large, far bigger than normal for a non-Ashes Adelaide Test.

But what of the spectacle itself? Paul Stewart and James Sadler are England fans from the Midlands with plenty of past experience of watching games at Edgbaston. They both now live in Adelaide and have seen the day-night Tests there.

Paul said it was the "best crowd I had ever seen for a non-Ashes Test and, in my opinion, possibly the saviour of the five-day format," while James said: "The pink ball has really invigorated the game here in Adelaide. Attendances are way up on previous years."
Just as day-night Test cricket has proved a big hit in Adelaide, so excitement is building as the historic game at Edgbaston approaches. History will be made on the most exciting nights of cricket in English history.

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