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Old wine in new bottle: The story of Day-Night Test cricket so far

Courtesy to BCCI's newly-elected president Sourav Ganguly, the day-night Test was one of his first agendas that he ticked off within days of taking seat and got Virat Kohli's nod "in a matter of just three seconds".

Aratrick Mondal Aratrick Mondal
New Delhi Updated on: November 19, 2019 15:00 IST
Old wine in new bottle: The story of Day-Night Test cricket so far
Image Source : GETTY IMAGES

Old wine in new bottle: The story of Day-Night Test cricket so far

After years of refusing to play a day-night Test with the fear of taming the extra-lacquered pink ball under the lights and largely remaining sceptical of what is still a high-stakes experiment, India have finally agreed to embrace the new variety in the traditional format of the game. Courtesy to BCCI's newly-elected president Sourav Ganguly, the day-night Test was one of his first agendas that he ticked off within days of taking seat and got Virat Kohli's nod "in a matter of just three seconds". Subsequently, Eden Gardens in Kolkata was selected as the venue and Bangladesh were persuaded to be part of the historic Test. And finally, November 22, the second Test between the two nation in the two-game series, was chosen as the day when the two Asian countries would make their debut in this format of the game.

Inception

It was in the late 2000s when the idea of a day-night first-class match was floated and West Indies hosted the first of its kind, between Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago. By the turn of the decade, Cricket Australia began scheduling day-night Tests in their Shield games. Eventually, ICC gave its seal of approval to the format in 2012 and three years later, Cricket Australia was all set to host the first-ever international day-night Test match at the picturesque Adelaide, against New Zealand. A year later, on October 16, the second day-night Test was played, between Pakistan and West Indies in Dubai. Overall, 11 day-night Tests have been played with Australia hosting five of them.

Results of all 11 Day-Night Tests so far

Team Result Margin Opposition Ground Start Date
Australia won 3 wickets v New Zealand Adelaide 27-Nov-15
Pakistan won 56 runs v West Indies Dubai (DSC) 13-Oct-16
Australia won 7 wickets v South Africa Adelaide 24-Nov-16
Australia won 39 runs v Pakistan Brisbane 15-Dec-16
England won inns & 209 runs v West Indies Birmingham 17-Aug-17
Sri Lanka won 68 runs v Pakistan Dubai (DSC) 6-Oct-17
Australia won 120 runs v England Adelaide 2-Dec-17
South Africa won inns & 120 runs v Zimbabwe Port Elizabeth 26-Dec-17
New Zealand won inns & 49 runs v England Auckland 22-Mar-18
Sri Lanka won 4 wickets v West Indies Bridgetown 23-Jun-18
Australia won inns & 40 runs v Sri Lanka Brisbane 24-Jan-19

With the format still under experiments, day-night Test is not an official part of any Test fixture of a country. In fact, ICC Playing Conditions say that a home side can only host a day-night Test match "with the agreement of the Visiting Board".

India's experience with D/N Test

Since the inception of the concept, India have been against playing a pink-ball Test match. Ahead of India's tour last December, Cricket Australia had proposed BCCI to play a day-night Test at the Adelaide which had hosted the variety over the last three years. The proposal was dropped owing to BCCI's denial. However, two years back, India experimented with the format using the Kookaburra pink in the Duleep Trophy but the ball received poor reviews from players forcing BCCI to fall back to the default format.

What we know so far about the format

It would be unfair to draw results and conclusions from the 11 day-night Tests that have been played around the world, mostly because five of them have been played in Australia. But what we did observe was that around the final session of the day, when the floodlights decorated the venue, the ball swung more and troubled the batsmen leaving teams getting dismissed under 150 more often (11 times in all). In fact, the pacers managed to shine more with the pink, bagging 257 wickets at an average of 25. However, in the two Tests played in Dubai, the results were stark different. Both teams in both the Tests scored more than 250 in the first innings and the spinners did extremely well with Yasir Shah bagging 15 wickets in four innings.

Top five run-getters in Day-Night Tests

Player Span Mat Runs Ave SR 100 50
Azhar Ali (PAK) 2016-2017 3 456 91.2 53.77 1 2
SPD Smith (AUS) 2015-2017 4 405 50.62 58.1 1 3
Asad Shafiq (PAK) 2016-2017 3 335 55.83 60.79 2 1
UT Khawaja (AUS) 2016-2019 4 307 43.85 49.83 1 2
AN Cook (ENG) 2017-2018 3 303 60.6 50.92 1 0

 Top five wicket-takers in Day-Night Tests...

Player Span Mat Wkts Ave SR 5
MA Starc (AUS) 2015-2019 5 26 23 40.7 1
JR Hazlewood (AUS) 2015-2017 4 21 22.42 50.3 1
Yasir Shah (PAK) 2016-2017 3 18 35.5 68.3 2
NM Lyon (AUS) 2015-2019 5 17 28.35 61.7 0
TA Boult (NZ) 2015-2018 2 16 12.5 26.5 2

For the Eden Gardens Test, the SG pink ball will be used, which will also make its debut appearance in any cricket game whatsoever. "Hopefully SG because the first match will be with SG, so the second Test will also have to be with SG," Ganguly had told PTI.

Some of India's Test specialist got a taste of the pink ball at their practice session at the NCA before the Indore Test against Bangladesh. "We had two good practice sessions, actually three or four but two in pink ball, one during the day and one under lights," Ajinkya Rahane had said at a presser in the lead up to the opener in Indore. "It was actually exciting. It was the first time I played with pink ball, and definitely it's a different ball game as compared to red ball."

 
Why the day-night Test? 

Test match audience have been plummeting in India and it was largely noticeable during the South Africa series in Pune and Ranchi. It is the traditional format of the game and players have been talking of saving the format amid rise in newer limited-overs formats. But with lack of spectators, even increase in more Tests in a calendar year will serve no good. Hence, a change in timing so that even office goers are able to reach the venue or switch on the TV on reaching home to enjoy Test cricket.

"I know T20 every stand is full in every game. But proper management of Test cricket will bring back crowd. It's a start for India. I think with this concept Test cricket will be back on its feet. Now people's lives have changed, you cannot leave offices so that's when you have to make adaptability. That's important. Most number of times change is good. A lot of time, we hold on to things thinking what you believe is right," Ganguly said.

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