The third Test between rivals Australia and New Zealand of the Trans-Tasman cup at the Adelaide Oval was the first ever day-night Test Match in the history of cricket.
It was also the first international match to be played with a pink ball – with evening tea being the first break, followed by dinner (instead of the usual Lunch and Tea). The match was won by Australia, who also sealed the series 2-0 with the win, thanks to a highly controversial DRS decision made by third umpire Nigel Llong in the second innings. Result aside, the match lasted for a mere three days, and was the lowest-scoring Adelaide match in decades. This was New Zealand’s first Test series loss since June 2013, a proud run that lasted for seven unbeaten series, and Steve Smith’s first series victory as full-time Test captain.
In an era where Test cricket is dying a slow death, restricted to factors like home advantage and doctored pitches, this match came like a breath of fresh air – and the ground recorded the highest attendance for an Australian Test Match ever. Here are the reasons this stunt was more than a spectacle, and could be here to stay:
PINK BALLS, NEW DIMENSION
The pink ball may not look very becoming against the crisp whites of the Test players, but its behavior seems to have added an extra dimension to the ups and downs of a Test match. Under lights in the post-tea session, the ball moves, spits and seams around, giving bowlers the edge, thereby pushing teams to strategize by somehow making the opposition bat the most in these conditions. More than 20 wickets fell in the first two days, and Australia barely clawed home under lights on the third day after losing seven wickets to the skills of Trent Boult – who became far more effective under lights. Josh Hazlewood, Peter Siddle, Boult and Tim Southee got some serious purchase out of these sessions, which made it a riveting contest between hard, skillful batting (Peter Nevill in the first innings, Shaun Marsh in the second) and smart bowling.
There was a constant relentless buzz throughout the three night sessions – lending an urgency and excitement to proceedings, even though the scoring remained labored and slow. The bowlers enjoyed the conditions, feeding off the full house crowd, who in turn seemed to have graced the occasion by treating the cricket as three day-night ODI matches instead of one single Test Match. The only difference was that the players wore white instead of colors – but the spectators would never let off, making for an unforgettable atmosphere and a shot in the arm for Test Cricket.
NEW BODY, OLD SOUL
Even on television, it was like equipping the modern fast-paced new world of limited-overs cricket with the patience and calm of old-school Tests. This made for a truly visceral watching experience, where different hues, sounds and colors contributed to its sustained energy – irrespective of what was happening on the cricket field.
TIME TO ADAPT
Clearly, even professional players will take a while to adapt to this new format of sorts, and to come to terms with the fact that it will be more than the pitch that contributes to results of their cricket. Both teams struggled under lights, unable to counter the swinging ball – and Australia inched ahead simply because they managed to delay the New Zealand second innings into starting the night session, there by making it tough for the top order to thrive again. Several teams will watch with interest the follies of both teams, and draw out plans accordingly.
NO COUNTRY FOR BATSMEN ANYMORE
It is no more a one-sided battle between cricket’s two departments even on a pitch as notorious as the Adelaide Oval for its run-scoring and flatness. Three-day Tests have become a norm now, and one could see batting averages dropping all over the world if day-night Tests become a sustained reality. This will make for exciting Test Cricket – in stark contrast to the Brisbane and Perth tests, where guys like David Warner, Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor ground the bowlers to dust. A contest is what everyone wants to see – and these conditions could present far more balanced ones.