Pink isn’t just a colour
Edgbaston will wake up to its first day night test encounter when England take on the West Indies on Thursday. This will be the 5th day night test overall in the history of cricket. England will be playing their first nocturnal test, while the West indies have experienced day night tests earlier when they played Pakistan at the Dubai International stadium in October 2016.
Every game evolves over the years and so has cricket. But evolution also comes through innovation and after a lot of deliberation, day night test matches are a reality. The first official day night test was played between Australia and New Zealand at the Adelaide oval in the later part of 2015. This match ended in about 3 days with Australia winning by 3 wickets. The pink ball was used for the first time.
Apprehensions and speculations reined over the use of the newly designed pink ball. Players were not sure how the pink ball would behave, whether the wear and tear would be similar to the red cherry in match conditions. But things went smoothly and it was the dawn of a new chapter in test cricket.
West Indies had their first encounter with the pink at the Dubai International stadium against Pakistan. This was a high scoring game with Azhar Ali making his maiden triple century, all with the pink ball. West Indies fell short of 56 runs while chasing 346. This match went all the way till the last day and day night test cricket gained more credibility.
Almost all the day night matches have been high scoring and have gone the distance. The average first innings score in these 4 matches has been 321.87 while the average second innings score has been 229.5. This is quite close to the average first innings score of 344.6 in the 605 test matches played between 2000-2013.
Australia, Pakistan, New Zealand, West Indies and South Africa have already tasted these innovative playing conditions. England will be next to experience this at Edgbaston, Birmingham on Thursday. They will be looking at reworking their team selection with respect to the combinations they used in their series win over South Africa recently. England may look at the services of all rounder’s like Chris Woakes in this test. But with Ben Stokes, Jonny Bairstow, Moeen Ali and Captain Joe Root in prime form, England hold the edge in this day night test. They have a few new-comers in the squad like Mark Stoneman, Mason Crane and Tom Westley. Toby Roland Jones troubled the Proteas and will be expected to blast the West Indians under lights.
On the other hand, West Indies will look to redeem themselves. Cricket in the West Indies has been at the crossroads for too long, and it won’t matter to them whether they play under lights or in the desert until they are able to play well. Their new coach, Australian Stuart Law will be looking forward to induce some zing in the West Indian lineup so as to surprise the Pommies.
Captain Jason Holder will have to shoulder the responsibility of motivating the young side. They do not have any old head in their batting lineup, which is such a necessity on English tour. West Indies will have to rely on young vice captian Kraig Braithwaite, Jonathan Carter and Keiran Powell. West Indies have also been depleted as most of their inform players are playing the Caribbean premier league and those who have travelled to England are the ones who haven’t fallen out with the Caribbean cricket board.
West indies are currently 8th in the ICC test rankings and they haven’t beaten England in their own backyard since 2000.
The facilities at the Warwickshire county cricket club are fabulous and it will be a treat to watch the test match under floodlights. Nearly 70000 tickets have been sold for the first three days with the tickets priced at 6 pounds for U 16 and 26 pounds for adults. The food and beverages are amazing and the practice area behind edgbaston are fabulous. The match will start at 1400 hours local time with a lunch break at 1600 hours, the second session will be played from 1640 to 1840 hours and then tea will be taken. The floodlights will be switched on at tea. With the extended summer, light will not be a problem at edgbaston except when it gets really dark with the cloud cover. The players will have to face the challenge of playing with the bright pink ball in the day and then adjust post tea under lights. This will also be the first day night test to use the Duke pink balls, all the earlier day night tests were played with the kookaburra pink balls.
The weather forecast looks perfect for the next 5 days at Birmingham with day temperatures expected around 20-22 deg C and the mercury would dip to around 15-16 deg later in the evening. There are forecasts for a few passing showers in the afternoon and later in the evening on a couple of days during the test.
So as American teen singing sensation said that Pink isn’t just a colour its an Attitude, West Indians would be looking forward to compete hard. Till then let us enjoy some day night test cricket, plus some lovely songs of Miley Cyrus.
-The writer is a radio sports commentator