The first day-night Test

Pink-ball Test cricket was an experiment five years in the making

Daniel Brettig

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February 2, 2010, and players outnumbered spectators at Adelaide Oval to watch the first edition of the pink Kookburra ball in testing for bigger days, during a 2nd XI match between South Australia and Western Australia. Similar experiments went on that night in Brisbane and Melbourne, but it was in Adelaide that the key findings were made - the ground was soon to go through a major redevelopment, but it was handpicked by Cricket Australia as the ideal venue for a Test match under lights. 

The concept itself was far from new. Long-form night-time cricket had been a part of the second season of Kerry Packer's World Series Cricket in 1978-79, and the Sheffield Shield had hosted further experiments with yellow and orange balls from 1994 to 1999. But it needed a concerted push of a number of years to make the journey from experiment to showpiece. CA's chief executive, James Sutherland, was the major advocate, fuelled by advice from his former head of strategy, Andrew Jones, that a deadline needed to be set. Negotiations with New Zealand helped mark it down for late November 2015, after another five years of testing, floodlit Shield matches and ball tweaks. 

Night time is the right time © Getty Images

There were notable critics. Ricky Ponting felt conditions would vary too much from day to night, a view echoed by Kevin Pietersen, while the late Tony Greig said it was close to an impossible task to get the ball right: "Whatever they say, there is no ball."

But the drive towards the fixture was aided by Adelaide's pristine new facilities and a capable groundsman in Damian Hough, who was able to strike the balance of pitch and outfield to keep the ball in reasonable shape. 

Mitchell Starc delivered the first ball to Martin Guptill, and a low-scoring wrestle between two young sides followed, won narrowly by Australia when a now injured Starc hobbled through for the winning run. Players put their reservations aside, helped by an extra A$1 million "prize money" split 60-40 between winners and losers. And all were awed by not only the huge crowds that turned out (123,736 over just three days), but also the mighty television ratings achieved - peaking at 3.19 million viewers as the match was decided. That, above all else, ensured day-night Test cricket would not be a passing fad.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig



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