Opinion: Day/Night Tests should be welcomed

Australia

New Zealand and Australia have announced that they will play a Day/Night Test match in 2015. This is something that has been under discussion for as long as there have been floodlights, and that has been a while.

New Zealand and Australia have announced that they will play a Day/Night Test match in 2015. This is something that has been under discussion for as long as there have been floodlights, and that has been a while.

It says a lot about cricket and the way the sport is run that we are only talking about the first of these matches taking place now.

The first ever flood lit cricket match took place over 60 years ago, between Middlesex CCC and Arsenal Football Club. It took another two and half decades for it to be tried again.

It is worth noting that it wasn't the cricket administrators that came up with the concept, but the World Series Cricket upstart set up by Kerry Packer. It was only after Packer had forced the Australian cricket administrators to have a change of heart about him getting TV rights that the first 'official' floodlit match took place in 1979.

In the 35 years since, there has been talk of floodlit Tests, but it took until January of 2010 for the first game of First Class cricket to take place under the lights. Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago played out a draw at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium in Antigua.

Since then, the ECB have had their season opening clash between the Champion County and the MCC played under floodlights in the UAE. There was even a county championship day/night game played in England in 2011, between Kent and Glamorgan. It was Aneurin Norman's one and only first class match. He will be an excellent quiz question answer in years to come.

The biggest issue has been finding a ball that will work. The white one used in 50 over matches struggles to last that long, with the ICC replacing it after 32 overs for a while, and now having one ball from each end.

With a ball having to last a minimum of 80 overs in Tests, a solution needed to be found. White balls lose their colour and go green, orange balls don't work on TV. The solution was pink and for the most part this has worked, but there have been some issues along the way.

In this past Sheffield Shield season in Australia there was a round of matches played under lights. The reaction of the players has been lukewarm, with many saying that the Kookaburra version of the pink ball went too soft too quick.

This meant that it didn't swing or seam and was also hard to score runs. Batsmen not getting out while not scoring gives you boring cricket and nothing will put more nails in the coffin of day/night Tests than them being dull.

Cricket is by its nature reactionary. When people see things changing they flinch at the prospect. They will claim that there is no need to alter things, that Tests have always been played during the day and there is no need for any alteration in playing conditions.

But there is. Everywhere but England and Australia attendances at Tests are falling, and even in those countries when the opposition is not particularly glamorous there are rows and rows of empty seats.

That is not to say that ground attendances are the best way to judge the viability of Test cricket. The money TV companies are prepared to spend on them is far more important. But it is depressing to see swathes of empty seats. It is emblematic of the issues that Tests face. There will come a point where it needs to change or die.

That may not be any time soon, but sitting back and allowing interest in the sport decline is not a way to guarantee its future. Tests are played when people are at work, this means they are hard for people to watch. That is the reality that we live in.

While it would be nice for cricket to exist in a vacuum where it is free from the economic realities that we all face, this isn't the case. If people aren't coming to watch, the sport cannot survive in the long term. If the public aren't coming when you arrange for something to take place, you need to adapt.

People will tell you that it won't be the same game. Perhaps they are right, but any sport adapts. One Day cricket is a better spectacle for being played at night, there is no reason that Tests cannot gain a similar boon from taking place under lights.

Just as any change in conditions makes the game more interesting, so too will the implications of playing at night. Declarations will have to be timed right, decisions at tosses will be vital, the game will ebb and flow.

Australia and New Zealand played the first T20 international in retro kits and treating it as a bit of a laugh. Now it is a very serious business. The same could well be the case for Tests under lights. In fact it is very likely.

<b>Peter Miller</b>

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