West Indies in England 2012

Cook backs use of floodlights in Test cricket

David Hopps

May 23, 2012

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Alastair Cook in training, Trent Bridge, May, 23, 2012
England opener Alastair Cook goes through a drill in training at Trent Bridge © Getty Images
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Alastair Cook, the batsman at the centre of England's successful run chase against West Indies at Lord's, has expressed support for the authorities' growing willingness to use floodlights in Test cricket.

The ECB has traditionally been ultra-cautious in advocating the use of floodlights outside the one-day game but that suspicion has been markedly reduced this summer with England and West Indies both committed to using artificial light throughout the three-Test series whenever the occasion demands. The ruling came from the ICC's match referee, Roshan Mahanama, during a pre-series briefing and neither board took up their right to appeal against floodlights being used at any of the three grounds hosting a Test in the series - Lord's, Trent Bridge or Edgbaston.

There has been no change in the ICC regulations governing use of floodlights, but there has been a shift in interpretation. Mahanama stressed that players would only leave the field if conditions were regarded as unsafe and expressed a stronger commitment to the regulation which states: "If in the opinion of the umpires, natural light is deteriorating to an unfit level, they shall authorize the ground authorities to use the available artificial lighting so that the match can continue in acceptable conditions."

Cook, whose opinion as England's Test vice-captain and captain in 50-over cricket is significant, has no complaints and he indicated that the rest of the side were comfortable about a shift in policy that puts the entertainment of the public first. He experienced first-hand the difficulties of batting under lights when England collapsed to 10 for 2 in four hostile overs at the end of the fourth day but he survived to make 79 in England's five-wicket win.

"I think that fourth day was a prime example of why lights should be used in Test cricket," he said. "There are occasions when it works to your disadvantage like when it's pretty dark, such as the last 15 to 20 minutes on that day when we had to go and face it.

"But we were talking about it in the dressing-room and if those lights weren't on we probably wouldn't have played much that day and I think for the crowd and the entertainment we've got to try and get as much play as we can. It will work in your favour one day and others you'll have to go and face four overs in not ideal conditions but hopefully we'll benefit from that situation at some stage as well."

The MCC has been as a champion of floodlit Tests at night and, in common with the ICC, it has conducted research into pink and orange balls that might be more suited to night Tests. But when it comes to poor light in the day time, the common-or-garden red ball does not seem to have outlived its usefulness.

"It feels quite strange," said Cook, who was one of four England captains gathered in Nottingham in support of the latest scheme to bring cricket to the inner cities. "It's just different because we are exploring new ground but I think it worked really well. Because Test cricket is over five days, if one side are bowling under lights and then the other has to bat in those conditions all the time you might be able to change the game too much but at Lord's because of the nature of the wicket, it was fine. There's a good case for using them now.

"We were saying we don't think we'd have got much play, certainly not the 80 or 90-odd overs we got, and it probably would've been hard to get a result. We wouldn't have got more than 30 or 40 overs. We wouldn't have won that game without those lights.

"We need a bit more experience of playing with them but at lord's when the wicket was good it didn't seem to affect what the ball did."

Without the willingness of England and West Indies to resort to floodlights, the scourge of bad light would have severely disrupted the Lord's Test, frustrating spectators and potentially costing the ECB revenue when many counties are under severe financial pressure. Test cricket has benefited significantly from the investment in faster-draining outfields and it is logical to hope that floodlights, better quality on most English Test grounds these days, can bring similar dividends.

It remains to be seen whether England and South Africa will remain so committed to floodlights later this summer in a series that could decide the No. 1 Test ranking. Nothing in ICC regulations is ever entirely clear: the use of floodlights is subject to the interpretation of clause 16 on playing which allows for additional playing time at the end of regulation hours to recover time lost to the weather.

Cook, though, spoke for many who tire of interminable late finishes because of weather-interrupted days, a common feature of Test cricket in England, when he stated: "Of course common sense always has to be used at certain stages. But in an ideal world eleven 'til six is best."

Denesh Ramdin, West Indies' vice-captain, did not sound quite as enthusiastic. He not only had to bat under floodlights, but keep wicket as well and he took several painful blows on the hands during the Test. "It was a bit difficult with the pavilion in the background," he said. "It was difficult and it was challenging."

Shivnarine Chanderpaul had also expressed surprise at use of floodlights at the end of two prolonged innings in which he batted nearly ten-and-a-half hours in the match. "He didn't seem to have any problems, he batted long enough I think," Cook joked. "Like always in cricket, and any sport, sometimes when you go into the unknown it's different."

David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by zenboomerang on (May 26, 2012, 6:54 GMT)

@Riingo :- "my take on this issue is that it is not the start of day/night tests"... In Oz it is an issue & the climate has much to do with it - much easier to play 3 hours under cooler conditions for both players, spectators, TV revenue... That is the reason CA want to play SS matches in day/night scenario's, also likely to get better crowd suport... The problem with Tests (using lights) is when do you stop?... You start at 11a.m. then lose 3 hours to rain say until 6p.m. - do you play until 9-10p.m.?... I don't think anyone would want that...

Posted by The_bowlers_Holding on (May 25, 2012, 7:03 GMT)

I think there is some confusion, my take on this issue is that it is not the start of day/night tests but a measure to ensure a full days play rather than going off for bad light, this can only be agood thing for the spectators who pay good money in England (>£60) In response to Cook being a flash in the pan and only having one good knock against India well his average v crickets real No.1 is 48 and he scored a century on debut in India- however he has not got an IPL contract which is proof he is rubbish.

Posted by zenboomerang on (May 25, 2012, 5:27 GMT)

I know in Oz that CA have been pushing to get Shield games into day/night encounters for a few years now & using the lights in Tests... The stumbling block has been the orange, pink balls that have been tested & proven unsatisfactory to date... A problem that may also cause dilemmas is a ball that is 40 overs old that is scuffed & soiled that becomes unplayable under lights - do the umpires swap the ball, even though the bowling team wants to keep that ball because of reverse swing or suiting the spinners?... Seeing that they now use 2 white balls in one-dayers for just 50 overs, what will they do for Tests & 80 overs? ...

Posted by Meety on (May 25, 2012, 2:44 GMT)

@o-bomb - actually I wasn't really shivering, haven't worn a jumper in SE QLD (day or night) this century!

Posted by rahulcricket007 on (May 25, 2012, 2:17 GMT)

@ G SRI . i wouldn't say things like that about him . cook is really a good batsmen . a typical test batsmen which has all the wisdom of the greats like dravid , kallis , gavskar which is importnat for playing test cricket . also he played some good innings in uae & sl .

Posted by JG2704 on (May 24, 2012, 19:23 GMT)

Just thinking about the starting earlier. I suppose one of the key reasons in having floodlit tests is in the hope of attracting more people to games with later starts etc so the earlier starts would defeat the object. I wonder if they'll consider using floodlights so play can be extended when play has been rain interupted

Posted by   on (May 24, 2012, 15:15 GMT)

Lets go on a trail of using day-night tests and see how it works. Here in South Africa it will work for sure

Posted by Front-Foot-Lunge on (May 24, 2012, 14:53 GMT)

With no question as to who is number 1, and just ask any Indian or Australian fan what they think of Cook (there's humble pie if ever we saw it!), Cook has started the year superbly and looks set for yet another run-fest this year

Posted by A_Yorkshire_Lad on (May 24, 2012, 14:00 GMT)

@ G.Sri - I suppose the whole Indian team not managing to outscore Cook's 294 at Edgbaston in 7 innings out of 8 last summer was a flash in the pan as well ? A first class average of 47.52 and a test average of 48.75 - yeah , you're right , he's rubbish isn't he ? Well spotted , mate !

Posted by YorkshirePudding on (May 24, 2012, 13:14 GMT)

@yorkshirematt, same here, just explaining that it might not be the YCCC commitees fault that there are no lights up, but a problem with the council rejecting planning permission after residents objections.....@Yevghenny, what about spinners not being able to get a good purchase on a damp ball? besides they were talking about having Tests go on as late as ODI's, which is about 9-10pm in the UK lights would start up around 5-6, conditions start to change about 7 as the air temp drops and the sun starts to settle, this is a bigger problem in the Sub-continent.

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David Hopps David Hopps joined ESPNcricinfo as UK editor early in 2012. For the previous 20 years he was a senior cricket writer for the Guardian and covered England extensively during that time in all Test-playing nations. He also covered four Olympic Games and has written several cricket books, including collections of cricket quotations. He has been an avid amateur cricketer since he was 12, and so knows the pain of repeated failure only too well. The pile of untouched novels he plans to read, but rarely gets around to, is now almost touching the ceiling. He divides his time between the ESPNcricinfo office in Hammersmith and his beloved Yorkshire.
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