MCC v Durham, Abu Dhabi, 1st day March 29, 2010

Durham prosper against pink ball

Durham 329 for 3 (Coetzer 123*, Blackwell 13*) v MCC

Durham pair Michael Di Venuto and Kyle Coetzer both scored centuries as bat dominated pink ball on an experimental first day of the season-opening fixture against MCC. The traditional county curtain-raiser has a new look this year, with the game transplanted from Lord's to Abu Dhabi's Sheikh Zayed Stadium, while pink Kookaburra's and floodlights are also in use.

Those developments are part of a wider plan to usher in the era of day/night Test cricket, an agenda which is unlikely to have been either derailed or dramatically advanced by events on day one of this high-profile trial. Di Venuto hit a sprightly 131 and Coetzer, who batted all day, a more stately 123 not out as the champions made mostly serene progress to 329 for 3 after winning the toss.

The flat wicket and serene batting conditions, rather than the colour of the ball, can take much of the credit for that, though. Gloucestershire seamer Jon Lewis was handed first use of the ball, with Middlesex's Tim Murtagh starting at the other end.

Lewis beat the bat with the fourth delivery of the match but there was little else to worry the champion county's opening pair in the first session. Di Venuto began positively, finding the boundary three times in the first four overs and helping himself to two more in the sixth over as Murtagh strayed.

Alex Gidman turned quickly to the spin of James Middlebrook but he was soon despatched for six over long-on as Di Venuto hurtled towards the first fifty of the first-class season, a feat he reached after 89 balls. Coetzer was struggling for the strike at the other end but looked in little trouble when he did face.

Lewis and Gidman found hints of swing as the ball aged but not enough to contain Durham as they eased to 89 for nought at lunch. The lights came on just after the break, perhaps a little early with the natural light still more than adequate.

The change certainly made little difference to Di Venuto and Coetzer, the former continuing to take the lion's share of the bowling and peppering the boundary accordingly. A pair of singles brought him his hundred from 145 balls with 20 fours and a six along the way.

MCC looked understandably downcast in the field, with a lively Steve Kirby appeal against Di Venuto the closest anyone got to animation before the batsman was stumped by James Foster going down the track to Middlebrook.

At the point of his departure, Di Venuto had 131 of his side's 181. Coetzer eventually passed fifty, while captain Will Smith came and went for 13 before chipping Middlebrook to Scott Newman, who juggled the catch.

Coetzer began to go on the attack as tea loomed, advancing down the wicket a handful of times to the spinners, once to loft Middlebrook for a straight six. New batsman Dale Benkenstein was busy at the crease, working his way to 41 before being bowled by Dean Cosker.

By that time Coetzer, who scored just one first-class century last season, had finally nudged his way to a hundred, a feat which required 194 deliveries. At the close of play he had extended his score to 123, while Ian Blackwell was on 13.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Paul on March 30, 2010, 12:28 GMT

    Croc_on_mara can just go and eat those blasphemous words, then go read a history book and learn some of the traditions of this great game!

    The match being played is between the MCC, the custodians of the game, rather than Lalit Modi, and last season's county champions, in this case Durham. The game is the English county season's traditional opener and it is appalling that the game is not at Lord's.

    As for the writer of this Bulletin: why no comment on the trial that this game is? how big was the crowd? how did the pink balls go? did any of the county members make the trek across to watch the game?

    Had the game been played at Lord's you can bet there would have been atmosphere!

  • Harvey on March 30, 2010, 11:01 GMT

    @Main Nick - The ECB is obsessed with the idea of Day/Night Test cricket, which they claim will bring in more fans. A pink ball is supposedly easier to see under floodlights than a red one. The truth is however that Tests in England usually sell out anyway, so it can't be anything to do with bringing more fans into the ground and making things better for us. In fact for me, Day/Night Tests would be an absolute disaster, because there would be no train to get me home after the match from most English grounds. What it's really about is bringing in more TV revenue; nothing to do with paying spectators like us at all. Day/Night Tests might be a good thing on the subcontinent (where most spectators live local to the ground), and if a pink ball stays pink even when old and allows play to continue under floodlights during bad light, then I'm fine with that, too. I just don't think the English climate is suited to Day/Night Test cricket from either a cricketing or spectating point of view.

  • Cricinfouser on March 30, 2010, 9:29 GMT

    Nothing to say about the ball?!!?? Did the pink paint survive 80 overs? could the spinners turn it? could the batsmen see it? Fast bowlers, slow bowlers, batsmen, wicketkeepers, fielding team ball-polishers will surely all have something relevant to say...

  • Simon on March 30, 2010, 9:09 GMT

    Croc, Durham are the County champions from last season and the MCC are a strong MCC team, it is the traditional start to the English county season and as such usually gets a bit of coverage, if you don't like it you could always read something else - why the anger?

    The pink ball is being trialled as the white ball scuffs up too quickly and the red ball if impossible to see under lights. The pink one is being extensively trialled as a ball for the future, at the moment it creates a few 'shadows' as it gets close to the ground/ pitch but is looking promising.

  • Dummy4 on March 30, 2010, 7:37 GMT

    what is the point on playing with a pink ball???

  • Sydney on March 30, 2010, 6:12 GMT

    Just who the hell are these Durham and MCC? ... and why is this pathetic match getting so much coverage? To begin with the teams are all sensationally unheard of and to make things worse its being played in Abu dhabi. Hey, why not organize a thrilling trans-scandinavian tourney between Norway+ Sweden vs Finland+Denmark and host it in Godthaab, the capital of Greenland to add to the frenzy!! Yaay...

  • Shadab on March 29, 2010, 20:32 GMT

    hmm.. how does tht help cricket? i mean playing in desert is of no use. it will always b unfair to the bowlers, specially fast bowlers.

  • Andrew on March 29, 2010, 19:56 GMT

    So exactly how is playing this match with a pink ball in Abu Dhabi during the day going to tell anyone anything about the viability of day/night Test cricket in England, Australia, India etc?

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