New Zealand's domestic circuit will get its first feel of the pink ball during the 2016-17 season of the Plunket Shield, the country's premier first-class tournament. One round of Plunket Shield matches, scheduled between March 6 and 9 in Auckland, Hamilton and Wellington, will be day-night fixtures, according to the domestic schedules released by New Zealand Cricket on Tuesday.
Westpac Stadium, Wellington will host its maiden first-class match when home side Wellington take on Otago. Eden Park in Auckland will host a match between Auckland and Canterbury, while Northern Districts will play Central Districts at Seddon Park.
According to a report on Stuff.co.nz, the pink ball will be closely monitored, and player feedback on the ball's visibility, durability and the effect of conditions on it will be taken into account before NZC looks into the possibility of hosting a floodlit Test against England in 2018 on a drop-in pitch at Eden Park.
While the start times for the day-night matches have not been finalised yet, the session timings (local) are likely to be between 2.30pm and 4.30pm, 4.50pm to 6.50 pm, and 7.30pm to 9.30pm. The remaining matches will have the traditional 10.30am start.
There were plans to hold an entire round of day-night Plunket Shield matches in the 2015-16 season, but these were scrapped due to concerns over the quality of lights at McLean Park in Napier. NZC was also forced to ditch plans of hosting South Africa for a day-night Test in March next year.
Hamilton's Seddon Park has already had a run of trials with the pink ball under the floodlights in the form of a New Zealand team open-wicket training session, as well as a minor association match, held in March this year.
The 2016-17 Plunket Shield will be split into two parts, and will run on either side of the T20 and List A tournaments. The first-class season begins on October 22 and goes on until the first five rounds are completed. The final five rounds of the Plunket Shield will then be contested from February 25 and will conclude on April 1.
The T20 competition is scheduled between December and mid-January and will be followed by the Ford Trophy, the country's List A competition, from January 15 to February 18. The schedule for the T20 competition will be announced on Friday.