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England-West Indies Test series begins with day-nighter

England beat South Africa 3-1 in its first series of the summer and starts as a favorite against the West Indies, who are No. 8 in the test rankings and have lost six straight Test series.

Reported by: AP , Birmingham [ Published on: August 16, 2017 19:40 IST ]
England vs West Indies
Alastair Cook batting during a training session under floodlights during netsPhoto:AP

Before this week, Stuart Broad only had one experience of bowling with a pink cricket ball — and that was sending down a delivery in a demonstration for a British TV channel in June. On Thursday, the England paceman will be playing an international match with them, one of a raft of new challenges facing him and his teammates in Birmingham in their first-ever day-night test.

"It's stepping into the unknown completely," Broad said ahead of the first of three Tests against the West Indies.

The unknown includes the pink ball, changing sleep patterns, and different meal times — with the subsequent impact on energy levels.

There's a sense that England is treating the match at Edgbaston as a learning experience as much as a test. It's unusual for a top international sports team to feel so under prepared for a game.

"We're going to have to be so adaptable and figure out what's going on," Broad said. "The exciting thing is we are going in with a clear mind and learning on the job, almost."

This will be the fifth day-night test match, with Australia involved in three of them — first against New Zealand in 2015 and then against South Africa and Pakistan. Pakistan beat West Indies in Dubai in October 2016.

The International Cricket Council introduced the option of countries playing day-night tests in a bid to "enhance the public appeal of cricket's oldest format" and so that test cricket "remains relevant in the modern age." It means, for example, that some spectators can drop into the ground after school or work, and see more coverage on TV in the evenings.

Pink balls are used instead of red ones so that there can be better visibility for batsmen and fielders under the lights. England will be using a pink Dukes ball, rather than the Kookaburra used in Australia.

England's players have said the Dukes ball goes soft quickly, is hard to shine, and doesn't turn as much for spinners. Chris Woakes said the ball moved around more in the "twilight period."

"It was a bit different," Woakes said Tuesday. "Not like a white ball, not like a red ball, somewhere in between."

Some of England's players played with a pink ball as a trial in a day-night round of County Championship matches in late June. They are scheduled to play a day-night test at Adelaide during the upcoming Ashes series against Australia, and also one on the tour of New Zealand in March.

The terms "lunch" and "tea" will still be used for the intervals at Edgbaston, even though the lunch break will come at 4 p.m. local time, and will be the same length — 40 minutes for lunch and 20 minutes for tea. The intervals were called tea and dinner during the day-nighters in Australia.

"It's just to avoid confusion," Neil Snowball, the chief executive of Warwickshire, whose games are played at Edgbaston, told British newspaper The Guardian. "We don't know if this is going to be the first of many or whether it's a one-off but we thought it was easier to explain."

Broad spoke of players' needing to get the levels of food intake just right so they can have the energy to last through the evening, with play due to finish at 9 p.m. local time.

England beat South Africa 3-1 in its first series of the summer and starts as the favorite against the West Indies, who are No. 8 in the test rankings and have lost six straight test series. They are also without a number of key players, such as Chris Gayle, Marlon Samuels and Darren Sammy, because of a previous dispute with the West Indies Cricket Board.

The teams drew 1-1 in a test series in the Caribbean in 2015.

"I think people are writing the West Indies off too early," team manager Joel Garner said, "and it could be at their own peril."

England captain Joe Root said Wednesday that Mark Stoneman will make his debut, replacing Keaton Jennings to become the latest batsman to partner Alastair Cook at the top of the innings. All-rounder Chris Woakes and 20-year-old leg-spinner Mason Crane, both named in a 13-man squad, will be left out of the team.

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