<
>

Pink-ball trial at Eden Park returns positive feedback

The Eden Park is set to host a day-night Test against England next year Getty Images

The visibility of the pink ball when catching was one concern cited during the round of Plunket Shield matches played under lights in New Zealand this week but Eden Park, the proposed venue for the day-night Test against England next year, was given a positive review.

The round of matches was designed to test the pink ball in New Zealand conditions ahead of rubber-stamping a floodlit Test against England next March. The weather had a significant impact with two days getting washed out in Auckland. Hamilton was also severely disrupted and only the match in Wellington had more than two innings.

Legspinner Ish Sodhi, who claimed 7 for 107 against Central Districts at Seddon Park, said it was tricky judging distance in the field. "Catching under lights was very tough, the perception of the ball is different. I personally found it hard to figure out how far it was from my face whenever the ball was coming towards me. You think it's a little bit further away than what it is and it gets to you a little bit quicker."

In that match Central Districts declared nine down during the night session on the opening day and then seamer Seth Rance ripped through Northern Districts under the lights. He had 4 for 6 by the close and finished with 6 for 31 in the rain-ruined contest. Henry Cooper, who faced Rance during that night-time spell, said that the visibility of the ball was fine but swing caused the problems.

"It did swing around quite a bit," Cooper said. "The pink ball wasn't too tough to pick up; it was just the sort of swing that went on late last night. It was tricky to deal with and obviously we didn't deal with it as good as we could have.

"It did move around for our seamers at the start of the day as well. I think it was the night factor made it feel like it was maybe doing a little more than it possibly was."

Donovan Grobbelaar, the Auckland pace bowler who played in the Eden Park match, had no concerns about the conditions. "I had no problems [with visibility]," he said. "We found it pretty easy viewing. At Eden Park it's got pretty exceptional lighting so it helps."

Michael Papps, the Wellington opener, scored New Zealand's first pink ball century - beating Andrew Ellis to the mark by a few minutes - and said that while adjusting to conditions between the middle and last session was demanding, the ball itself behaved well.

"The first two sessions were quite similar but the third session certainly did feel quite different, before went off for dinner there was still a lot of natural light but coming back out the lights had definitely kicked in and it took quite a bit of adjusting to the artificial lights. There might have been a bit of uncertainty with the pink ball but to be fair it's played pretty well and hasn't done out of ordinary."

Kane Williamson, the New Zealand captain, who played in the inaugural day-night Test in Australia recently said he was a supporter of innovation in the game but cautioned about there being to vast a difference between the conditions for day-night and traditional Tests.

Eden Park and Seddon Park are the two likeliest venues for day-night Test cricket in New Zealand in the future although the Westpac Stadium in Wellington, which hosted its first first-class match in this round, and McLean Park in Napier could be options.

"We believe this time of the year is the best time of the year," David White, the NZC CEO, told ESPNcricinfo. "We are just going through that trial now to make sure. We'll know more after this round but the most obvious thing is to see how the ball performs in New Zealand conditions and from a visibility point of view how it reacts. We played the first day-night Test in Australia so are very comfortable with the prospect but are just going through our due diligence."

The ground in Napier is currently undergoing extensive remedial work on the outfield after the abandoned ODI against Australia, which led to them losing the South Africa fixture, but White said there would not be a black mark against them in the future.

"We've worked very close with the local authorities and they will invest a lot in the facilities. It is very important for us to have cricket throughout the country."