England set to play day-night Test match in New Zealand

August 2, 2017

Most cricket fans booking corporate hospitality for the upcoming Edgbaston Test match between England and the West Indies will be well aware that this pioneering day-night contest will be helping England prepare for a similar pink ball contest at Adelaide during the upcoming Ashes series.

The importance of getting used to playing with a pink ball under lights will now be even more important as it has been revealed that England face a second Test in such conditions during the winter.

Following the Ashes tour, England will hop across the Tasman Sea to New Zealand, where the hosts have revealed plans to play the Test match in Auckland under lights. 

The England and Wales Cricket Board has said this has not yet been confirmed, but the venue has staged many one-day internationals under lights, as well as regular rugby fixtures.

New Zealand took part in the first ever day-night Test at Adelaide in 2015, but until now the Kiwis have not hosted one themselves. 

However, there is no reason for Auckland to pose a problem with the natural light, as, like Adelaide, the twilight period is short. The match is scheduled to begin on March 22nd, two days after the equinox, and while sunset is at 7:30 p.m., civil twilight will last just 25 minutes. This is even shorter than the 29 minutes on the first night of the Adelaide Test (December 2nd).

With the nights now rapidly drawing in - the sunset times in Birmingham will get two hours earlier over the course of this month - twilight will be a similarly short period at Edgbaston, with play taking place during this period. This could give the English batsmen and bowlers crucial experience of the conditions ahead of playing in them on the other side of the world. Indeed, a moist August evening in Birmingham will be more likely to provide the right conditions for swing bowling than in a dry climate like that of Adelaide.

The appeal of day-night cricket for many is the chance for crowds to come in and watch in the evenings during the working week. This has been seen as a way to draw in the crowds in locations where people tend not to take days off to go to the game in the way they do in England. 

Adelaide saw huge crowds at its first day-night test and better than average ones for the second match there, when South Africa visited in 2016. However, the experiment brought little increase on the sparse attendances seen in the UAE when Pakistan followed suit. Theirs, however, is a case of a country having to play home games on neutral territory for security reasons, as the newly-promoted Afghanistan Test team will have to do.

However, the move may prove very effective in New Zealand, where recent crowds have been good at smaller venues like Hamilton and Napier, but not in the big stands of a venue like Eden Park. 

If Auckland does stage a successful day-night Test, it could be the first of many and ensure more countries around the world follow suit. If so, that could in turn ensure that England ready themselves for such games by playing more Tests under lights.

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