More than 125,000 spectators jammed the Adelaide Oval over 4 days as Day/Night Test Cricket took centre stage in the Third Test between Australia and South Africa last week. The match produced an excellent contest between bat and ball that offered something for everyone, with Australia achieving their first victory in six Test matches. After South Africa's initial reservations to hold a "pink test" it was interesting to note Faf Du Plessis's praise for the concept in the aftermath despite being comprehensively beaten. For the 2nd straight summer I found the Day/Night test to have that edge and a bit of cut and thrust that has been missing in Test cricket on Australian shores the past couple of summers.
Whilst last year's Day/Night Test against New Zealand in Adelaide was a hit with the fans and a ratings winner for Channel 9, the fact it was over inside three days remained a concern. The balance was not quite right, as significant grass cover led to exaggerated seam movement through the game as the bowlers dominated. Twelve months later and Adelaide Oval curator Damian Hough got the balance just right as Faf Du Plessis and Usman Khawaja were able to graft out outstanding centuries, whilst Stephen Cook also went close to a century in the Proteas second innings. Spinners Nathan Lyon and Tabraiz Shamsi were able to extract some turn, with Lyon returning to form with three Second Innings wickets, setting up Australia's win.
Score of between 250 and 350 often are the best test matches and this test proved an even contest throughout. Whilst there is no doubt it remains significantly harder to bat under the lights, the game was a compelling contest as the game moved along at a strong tempo. Du Plessis's unconventional declaration added intrigue to Night 1 as Australia were forced to survive 14 testing overs.
I have been calling for 4-day Test matches for a while, and I think that might be the future of the game along with these Day/Night contests at suitable venues. It would promote more aggressive captaincy as well as ensuring wickets that are not highways with scores of 600 plus in the first innings. There might be an argument that a Pink Test Match should have a different set of Test stats altogether, given the pink ball behaves differently to the red ball. Usually the last session of a normal test match is a time for batsman to cash in against weary bowlers, however the opposite applies in these pink tests.
It was also interesting to talk to a couple of people who were at the game, describing the pink ball as a crowd spectator as difficult to pick up at night. Maybe they had had one or two too many beverages however the claim seemed genuine and fielders square of the wickets have often reported having trouble at night picking up the ball.
With England visiting for a bumper Ashes program next Summer it seems certain that Adelaide will host another Day/Night test. With Brisbane hosting Pakistan under lights next week if the Gabba can achieve the same sort of riveting contest then expect more then one "Pink" test next summer. Despite the sceptics and being in its infancy, this is a time where Test Cricket needs to do everything possible to remain relevant with the T20 circuit having unstoppable momentum, and contests like Adelaide are part of its salvation.