The Pink Ball Will Save the Summer

BY DAN

On Friday, an experiment in test cricket begins. Matches played over day and night periods, with a different coloured ball. For a portion of the punditry upset at dull test matches, they’re about to fall in love.

Over the last two years, test cricket in Australia has fallen into a bit of a lull. Rather than the swashbuckling cricket of yesteryear[1], in 2014-15 Australian’s have seen three draws from the six tests played so far, and only one of these has been rain affected.

pink ball
This ball will save summer.

Rather than write this off as a statistical anomaly, this tiny sample has caused a spat of naval gazing not seen since the Battle of Trafalgar, in which many have pontificated that ‘something’ must be done to make the wickets more interesting, the pitches more variable and the results more regular.[2] 

In the large part, the finger of blame has been pointed in two directions. Firstly, new captain Steve Smith has, so the claim goes, failed to push for victories on the final day of tests. Australian’s like to tell themselves that they play cricket the ‘right way’[3], which apparently means needlessly declaring on the last day of a test in the vain hope of letting the other side win forcing a result. And in large part, his choice of ‘not losing’ has been because the wickets these tests have been played on have been very flat and he didn’t have Shane Warne. [4]

And so this week brings forth the pink ball and day/night test cricket. The pink ball has been much maligned, by players and pundits alike.

They behave in odd ways, visibility can be an issue and most of all there are great fears that the ball is unable to handle the dry pitches of Australia in the way the red ball can – presumably the worry is that they’ll be changed after two balls instead of three?

But rather than scoff at the ball, the cricket community should be embracing day/night cricket and the pink ball because it is this combination that is going to bring them the exciting cricket they say they crave.

First of all, as has been noticed in the Sheffield Shield season, and in the Kiwi’s warm up match against Western Australia, the pink ball swings more at night. This means rather than the first session being the major time to swing the ball, the back end of the day – importantly that with the most viewers – may result in the most compelling. South Australia lost 3 wickets in 6 overs against the new pink ball after Steve Smith aggressively declared. Western Australia lost 5 quick wickets against New Zealand in similar circumstances. This could see early declarations, more aggressive batting in middle sessions and games seemingly petering out to a draw on the last day being reinvigorated by the last new ball of the game.

But more importantly, because the pink ball is renowned for being fragile, the pitch prepared for Friday is likely to be greener than normal to ensure the longevity of the ball. Naturally this will mean more sideways movement, at pace and in the hands of the slower bowlers. More sideways movement means more wickets, especially when Australia is batting.

All in all it will mean more wickets more often, and undoubtedly a result. It might even mean the test is over in 3 days.

I can’t wait to hear how much of a success it was.

 

 

[1] Remember when we were young and Geoff Marsh made test cricket exciting?

[2] After all, test matches that end in low scores and results are always the most interesting.

[3] Unless it’s sledging – sledging is awful unless you’ve ever actually played cricket in which case the sledging that occurs at international level is practically a love poem.

[4] Shame on you Smudge. He’d play if you weren’t so stubbornly sticking to current players in your side.

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