The Ashes 2013-14 November 7, 2013

ECB on board for use of floodlights in Ashes

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England have finally relented from 15 years of opposition to the use of floodlights in Ashes matches in Australia, as both nations push the message to the ICC to ensure maximum possible playing hours be completed over the five Tests this summer.

Floodlights have been used in Tests in Australia since 1997, but, prior to this series, England had not agreed to their employment in Ashes matches down under, despite allowing floodlights to extend the playing hours in home Tests. As recently as 2010-11, the ECB had refused to permit the use of lights, forcing players off the field the moment the umpires deemed conditions to be unfair.

However, both the English and Australian boards are currently preaching a message of intolerance for the unnecessary loss of play, following the farcical finish to the fifth Test of the previous series at The Oval, when the hosts' chase for a fourth-innings target was stymied by the umpires on the grounds of safety despite no England batsman looking in any trouble. The ECB chairman Giles Clarke called the decision "totally unsatisfactory" and the result of "clearly unacceptable" regulations.

While the ICC's playing conditions around the use of lights and the umpires' discretionary powers over bad light and safe circumstances for play have not changed, the appointed officials for the Ashes will be strongly encouraged by Cricket Australia and the ECB to ensure the maximum number of overs are delivered. This includes permitting play to continue under lights and also to be stricter on the enforcement of reasonable over rates, which slowed to glacial speeds at times in England.

"Umpires need to take into account safety issues, that's a priority, but ultimately we have to play more," the CA chief executive James Sutherland said last month. "If the ground's a little bit slippery or the clouds happen to be coming over, you've got to keep playing. There are millions of people watching on TV, lots of people listening on the radio and heaps of people who paid good money to come into the ground.

"We've got to keep playing, that's our obligation to the public, and our umpires need to push the envelope and the players need to understand that we're playing the game, we're getting on with it. Today it might be unfair to you, and it might be an unfortunate situation that you feel disadvantaged with, but the tide will turn and the next time it happens it may well be that it's good for you.

"The broad principle is we need to play more and we've been pushing that with the ICC, and we've been in discussion with the ECB about this summer playing under artificial light. In previous Ashes series, there's been no suggestion of playing under artificial light, when we're off, we're off. But we've been talking to the ECB about that and it's just a matter of getting the playing conditions right and giving the umpires the terms of reference to use consistently."

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • on November 7, 2013, 23:40 GMT

    The issue isn't the use of floodlights, it's slow over rates plus the umpires preference to stop play. The lights were on at the Oval, but the umpires still took the players off because the fielders were complaining about not being able to see the ball, although the batsmen were seeing it just fine! In terms of slow over rates, I don't know why the ICC can't simply bring in a rule where runs are awarded to the batting team if the fielding team hasn't bowled the minimum over by the end of a session. 5 runs per over in the extras column seems about right.

  • ScottStevo on November 10, 2013, 17:46 GMT

    @landl47, it would be a fairer summary if you added the fact that Cook wouldn't bowl a spinner the evening beforehand and we lost x overs of play, that most likely would've seen Aus into a position where Clarke's declaration would've come with a lot less risk. Agree that there'd be no point in Clarke doing so if the scoreline was 1-0, although he definitely would've if the scoreline was anything other than that...Cook wouldn't have at 2/3-0 up, although maybe at 4 going for 5 :)

  • landl47 on November 10, 2013, 17:28 GMT

    @Mitty2: Australia declared 4 times, England once. However, as with so many things, context is everything. After 2 tests, England had declared once and were 2-0 up in the series. Aus hadn't declared at all. Aus HAD to win all 3 remaining tests, so they became more aggressive. By the last test, they were trying to salvage something from the wreckage so declaring wasn't a big deal.

    Remember that although Aus was trying to force a win, at OT it took them 36 overs to reach 172-7 in the second innings; at the Oval it was even worse, 23 overs to reach 111-6. When it counted, they couldn't deliver.

    As for England's chances but for bad light- 21 in 4 overs with 5 wickets in hand, Woakes going well with 17 from 13, Prior, Broad and Swann to come and Harris off injured- England wins 8 out of 10 and draws the other two.

  • whatawicket on November 8, 2013, 18:27 GMT

    i think if you look it was rain that decided the game at old trafford

  • whatawicket on November 8, 2013, 18:25 GMT

    it was only reading the comment about the 5th test at the oval that i realized how close England were to making it 4 -0

  • 2929paul on November 8, 2013, 13:19 GMT

    I pay to watch 90 overs bowled in a day. The teams are supposed to bowl at 15 overs an hour on average through the day to achieve this. If they do, subject to rain, there shouldn't be a problem with overunning into the time when bad light becomes a serious issue. Even gloomy conditions during mid afternoon are generally playable as the sun is high. I agree with others that the authorities should get tougher on teams not bowling their overs at the required rate. There's no excuse not to be able to bowl 15 overs in an hour, or 30 in a session, even if you have two fast bowlers all the time. These guys need to remember they are in the entertainment business and if we don't watch, they won't get paid. That's why the IPL such a success for everyone involved, love it or hate it.

  • dunger.bob on November 8, 2013, 8:42 GMT

    As a cricket lover all I want is to see as much play as possible. If using floodlights can give us that, I really can't see what the problem is. .. Good move I say.

  • Jagger on November 8, 2013, 0:53 GMT

    It's funny. I remember when England were getting flogged by us that floodlights was another antipodean conspiracy, which left all of us divided and conquered, wondering whether it would either kill cricket or benefit one country over the other. I guess some people have short memories...? *cough* *cough*.

  • Not_Another_Keybored_Expert on November 7, 2013, 22:16 GMT

    @ wibblewibble before you start throwing insults around maybe you should have first researched the facts; the umpires told both teams that play was to dangerous for fast bowling and if both teams agreed to play with spin being bowled at either end than play would continue, this resulted in Michael Clarke agreeing and the English batsman running off, which they are entitled to do. Now that being said the umpires set the precedent for bad light in the series on that reading at old Trafford and that is why when light deteriorated beyond that reading they were obligated to offer the same rules as that of the old Trafford game, which resulted in Michael Clarke and the Australians leave the field after being offered ''bad light''. Now the old rules of offering bad light might have changed but they still apply to this situation. Glad to have cleared that up for you old chap.

  • Mitty2 on November 7, 2013, 20:57 GMT

    We declared twice (just out of curiousity how many more times did we declare more than eng anyone?) in that test and eng needed over 20 runs off 4 overs... Far from guaranteed. If Eng fans think they were deserving for a 4-0 win they're hugely inflating how well Eng played in the Ashes. We all know how it went, Aus had a lot of good sessions but Eng's experience allowed them to dominate the key stages (mixed with iur diabolical batting). But in the fifth test, the only sessions they won was when there should of ben no contest, only for clarke to give the test match a chance by declaring early. Agree with landl47.

  • on November 7, 2013, 23:40 GMT

    The issue isn't the use of floodlights, it's slow over rates plus the umpires preference to stop play. The lights were on at the Oval, but the umpires still took the players off because the fielders were complaining about not being able to see the ball, although the batsmen were seeing it just fine! In terms of slow over rates, I don't know why the ICC can't simply bring in a rule where runs are awarded to the batting team if the fielding team hasn't bowled the minimum over by the end of a session. 5 runs per over in the extras column seems about right.

  • ScottStevo on November 10, 2013, 17:46 GMT

    @landl47, it would be a fairer summary if you added the fact that Cook wouldn't bowl a spinner the evening beforehand and we lost x overs of play, that most likely would've seen Aus into a position where Clarke's declaration would've come with a lot less risk. Agree that there'd be no point in Clarke doing so if the scoreline was 1-0, although he definitely would've if the scoreline was anything other than that...Cook wouldn't have at 2/3-0 up, although maybe at 4 going for 5 :)

  • landl47 on November 10, 2013, 17:28 GMT

    @Mitty2: Australia declared 4 times, England once. However, as with so many things, context is everything. After 2 tests, England had declared once and were 2-0 up in the series. Aus hadn't declared at all. Aus HAD to win all 3 remaining tests, so they became more aggressive. By the last test, they were trying to salvage something from the wreckage so declaring wasn't a big deal.

    Remember that although Aus was trying to force a win, at OT it took them 36 overs to reach 172-7 in the second innings; at the Oval it was even worse, 23 overs to reach 111-6. When it counted, they couldn't deliver.

    As for England's chances but for bad light- 21 in 4 overs with 5 wickets in hand, Woakes going well with 17 from 13, Prior, Broad and Swann to come and Harris off injured- England wins 8 out of 10 and draws the other two.

  • whatawicket on November 8, 2013, 18:27 GMT

    i think if you look it was rain that decided the game at old trafford

  • whatawicket on November 8, 2013, 18:25 GMT

    it was only reading the comment about the 5th test at the oval that i realized how close England were to making it 4 -0

  • 2929paul on November 8, 2013, 13:19 GMT

    I pay to watch 90 overs bowled in a day. The teams are supposed to bowl at 15 overs an hour on average through the day to achieve this. If they do, subject to rain, there shouldn't be a problem with overunning into the time when bad light becomes a serious issue. Even gloomy conditions during mid afternoon are generally playable as the sun is high. I agree with others that the authorities should get tougher on teams not bowling their overs at the required rate. There's no excuse not to be able to bowl 15 overs in an hour, or 30 in a session, even if you have two fast bowlers all the time. These guys need to remember they are in the entertainment business and if we don't watch, they won't get paid. That's why the IPL such a success for everyone involved, love it or hate it.

  • dunger.bob on November 8, 2013, 8:42 GMT

    As a cricket lover all I want is to see as much play as possible. If using floodlights can give us that, I really can't see what the problem is. .. Good move I say.

  • Jagger on November 8, 2013, 0:53 GMT

    It's funny. I remember when England were getting flogged by us that floodlights was another antipodean conspiracy, which left all of us divided and conquered, wondering whether it would either kill cricket or benefit one country over the other. I guess some people have short memories...? *cough* *cough*.

  • Not_Another_Keybored_Expert on November 7, 2013, 22:16 GMT

    @ wibblewibble before you start throwing insults around maybe you should have first researched the facts; the umpires told both teams that play was to dangerous for fast bowling and if both teams agreed to play with spin being bowled at either end than play would continue, this resulted in Michael Clarke agreeing and the English batsman running off, which they are entitled to do. Now that being said the umpires set the precedent for bad light in the series on that reading at old Trafford and that is why when light deteriorated beyond that reading they were obligated to offer the same rules as that of the old Trafford game, which resulted in Michael Clarke and the Australians leave the field after being offered ''bad light''. Now the old rules of offering bad light might have changed but they still apply to this situation. Glad to have cleared that up for you old chap.

  • Mitty2 on November 7, 2013, 20:57 GMT

    We declared twice (just out of curiousity how many more times did we declare more than eng anyone?) in that test and eng needed over 20 runs off 4 overs... Far from guaranteed. If Eng fans think they were deserving for a 4-0 win they're hugely inflating how well Eng played in the Ashes. We all know how it went, Aus had a lot of good sessions but Eng's experience allowed them to dominate the key stages (mixed with iur diabolical batting). But in the fifth test, the only sessions they won was when there should of ben no contest, only for clarke to give the test match a chance by declaring early. Agree with landl47.

  • YorkshirePudding on November 7, 2013, 19:41 GMT

    @Popcorn, I doubt it on the 4th Day only umpires seemed to want to go off for light, but Australia were not set to win, especially considering they only played for less than 1 session which was halted due to rain NOT bad light.

  • on November 7, 2013, 19:35 GMT

    God, people seem to forget on here that there is that thing called "gloomy overcast conditions", which occur even in an Australian summer. We don't need the artificial lights to make it to Stumps on a 40-degree sweltering day, as Stumps is 5.30-6.00 and dusk is closer to 8. It's when there's dark cloud and gloomy conditions.

  • Gareth_Bain on November 7, 2013, 16:49 GMT

    I don't know about other countries, but in South Africa games could easily start at 8:30 instead of 10:30. Bad light problems here would mostly disappear that way. I assume it would work the same in Australia.

  • crow_eater on November 7, 2013, 16:27 GMT

    @Rahin_A got to agree with you. Much of these issue's with bad light would be negated if they did something about improving the over rates & clamping down on time wasting. Finishing a game at 6 rather than have to drag it out for another hour to finish the days alloted overs would make a big difference.

  • landl47 on November 7, 2013, 14:08 GMT

    This is really only one step in the process. There were lights at The Oval and they were on, but the umpires still took the players off. I agree with Bryan Anglim; once it has been decided that play will continue under floodlights if necessary and the lights meet the required standard, then play continues with no question as to bad light.

    We have had day/night games in ODI cricket for years. They start in full daylight, carry on through the transition of day to night at twilight and continue in complete darkness under the lights. I see absolutely no reason why test matches should not do the same thing. Yes, the red ball is an issue and maybe that has to be addressed; I understand that experiments are being carried out with more luminous balls.

    We have 21st century technology available and to see players going off because it is a little gloomy is ridiculous. This is professional sport which people pay money to watch, find a solution.

  • landl47 on November 7, 2013, 13:51 GMT

    @milepost: I'm happy to agree with you that Australia took the risk of losing in order to try to get a win at The Oval. I said at the time that Australia had played the more enterprising cricket thoughout the game.

    However, you have to concede that the context was that this was a dead rubber game in which Australia was trying to salvage something from a tour in which they were down 3-0. Would Australia have been declaring and setting England 226 to win in 44 overs if Australia was one up in the series? Only if Clarke was out of his mind.

    Context is everything. Clarke had nothing to lose, so he went for the win. England reciprocated and scored at 5 runs an over themselves and looked likely to win if the umpires hadn't called the game off.

    That's a fair summary, isn't it?

  • bhusaranga on November 7, 2013, 13:49 GMT

    We get around 13-15 hours of day light and still we need artificial light! Wow!

  • on November 7, 2013, 13:49 GMT

    From my memory, floodlights were definitely on for some of day 1 at the MCG in 2010.

  • popcorn on November 7, 2013, 13:25 GMT

    Australia could have won the Old Trafford Test had we been allowed use of floodlights.

  • on November 7, 2013, 13:13 GMT

    Isn't this a bit irrelevant as the umpires tend to take the players off even when there's floodlights on anyway? What's needed is a complete reappraisal of what constitutes "dangerous" to the players and umpires. I'm quite sure the spectators will be happy to take the risk of a 6 being hit into the stands and not having absolutely perfect light to spot the ball coming towards them.

  • milepost on November 7, 2013, 12:33 GMT

    Millhouse, could we not at least find one England supporter who acknowledges that only by Australia chasing a win did England ever have a chance of winning at the Oval? Surely there is one English fan? Just one? C'mon, somebody..... I hate that they go off under floodlights at all and would not have begrudged an English victory there, that was the risk Clarke took and it created entertainment out of a match going nowhere.

  • willsrustynuts on November 7, 2013, 12:24 GMT

    The umpires were right. The rest is noise.

  • izzidole on November 7, 2013, 12:00 GMT

    Before play is allowed to be extended beyond closing time it has to be made mandotary that a specified number of overs needs to be bowled within an hour by the fielding side whether it is in a position of winning or losing the game to avoid time wasting tactics. If the appropriate number of overs is not bowled the umpires should have the option of extending play by an hour to accomodate the loss of overs. A minimum of 15 overs needs to be bowled by the fielding side every hour. If there's no possibility of a result the two captains should have the option of calling off play at the scheduled time. If bad light comes into play prior arrangements need to be made for the flood lights to be switched on automatically for play to continue without interruption.

  • Jaffa79 on November 7, 2013, 11:56 GMT

    All in favour of this. Would have been 4-0 this summer if he had it. Perhaps if we have floodlights, we won't need to see Michael Clarke spitting the dummy like he did at the Oval.

  • wibblewibble on November 7, 2013, 11:15 GMT

    Keybored expert - no-one has been "offered the light" for about 5 years. The umpires simply say "We're going off", no player from any side can disagree - well, they can, but nothing comes of it.

    Try shrugging your shoulders, that chip might fall off.

  • CodandChips on November 7, 2013, 11:06 GMT

    Over rates need to be sped up -especially England because I've noticed ours have been poor over the last few years.

    @Shut the gate- batting for draws is a vital part of test cricket

  • ShutTheGate on November 7, 2013, 10:57 GMT

    @ Ian Jones that is precisely the point. The team should be playing for a win first.

    Therefore if a team is batting second chasing a big total and there is rain forecast for the following day or two they should get a move on and make a game of it. Not come out and bat like Geoffrey Boycott and wait for the rain to draw the match.

  • sachin_vvsfan on November 7, 2013, 10:55 GMT

    I think this will also counter the time delaying tactics.

  • milepost on November 7, 2013, 10:45 GMT

    @ FFLPWH - hilarious name, love it!

  • Not_Another_Keybored_Expert on November 7, 2013, 9:36 GMT

    I find it funny that there is no mention of the old Trafford test where England ran of when offered bad light to retain the ashes, but the ECB think its unacceptable when it costs them a win, is a little bit of balance to much to ask for?

  • Rahim_A on November 7, 2013, 9:17 GMT

    "...the enforcement of reasonable over rates, which slowed to glacial speeds at times in England" - surely this is the most important point. The ECB, CA and all boards across the world should ensure that time wasting tactics are not being used to stifle the speed of the game. All the lights in the world will not make a difference if captains, coaches and teams are hell bent on slowing the game down. With regards to the Oval test England wasted a lot of time but were only in a position to chase down the target due to a generous deceleration from Michael Clarke so I'm not sure why Giles Clarke is moaning - he should have been asking questions of the England team as to why they were using gamesmanship earlier in the test.

  • R_U_4_REAL_NICK on November 7, 2013, 9:13 GMT

    Players will still be called off in the evenings when the floodlights come on because the pitches will be swarmed by moths...

  • on November 7, 2013, 8:39 GMT

    I felt sorry for the umpires in the 5th Test. They took the players off and were criticised for not allowing the play to continue. Had they kept the players on they would have been criticised (more) for not following the rules that are in place to ensure the result is fair.

    I think if there are flood lights in place, it should be decided in advance that they are adequate and play should continue regardless of light (unless there is a light failure).

    We won't miss the poor quality acting from players when they unsubtly tell the other batsmen how difficult it is to see the ball in earshot of the umpire, or the fielders holding their hands up in dismay because they want to make sure the umpire knows they can't see the ball.

  • northumbriannomad on November 7, 2013, 8:29 GMT

    @Abhishek Burman Yeah, right - in England the sun sets around 9 or 10 in summer, and there've been no problems with evening light in England at all, have there?

    This is a good proposal and it's just common sense. Cricket makes itself look ridiculous in these bad light situations, and Test cricket is in enough trouble as it is. The only issue is player safety, and that's more an issue for fielders than batsman. Floodlights solve the problem.

  • on November 7, 2013, 8:03 GMT

    Shut the gate - this is Test cricket, the idea is to win first, if not possible to draw. I suggest you stick to ODI cricket! Some the best Tests of recent years have been draws with teams clinging on on the last day.

  • ShutTheGate on November 7, 2013, 7:43 GMT

    The two captain should also have a gentleman's agreement to not "bat for a draw".

    There's nothing worse in test cricket when a team wins the toss bats around 500 in the first innings declares and then the second team comes out plays for time as opposed for a win.

    As a spectator I find this "totally unsatisfactory" and "clearly unacceptable"

  • on November 7, 2013, 7:41 GMT

    Don't forget the the test in Auckland in 2002, play went on for an hour or more in pure dark under lights. Fielders couldn't see the ball. Nor could the spectators. That situation is even more ludicrous.

  • ShutTheGate on November 7, 2013, 7:39 GMT

    @ FFLPWH - hilarious name, Aussie larinkinism is alive and well!!

  • on November 7, 2013, 7:00 GMT

    I dont think they are going to be needed, sunlight stays in Australia till close to 8pm on most occasions...if not all.

  • Albie_Hanekom on November 7, 2013, 6:52 GMT

    Once again Cricket Australia shows the ECB the way. Nothing more frustrating than watching players go off in the heat of battle for bad light.

  • Albie_Hanekom on November 7, 2013, 6:52 GMT

    Once again Cricket Australia shows the ECB the way. Nothing more frustrating than watching players go off in the heat of battle for bad light.

  • on November 7, 2013, 7:00 GMT

    I dont think they are going to be needed, sunlight stays in Australia till close to 8pm on most occasions...if not all.

  • ShutTheGate on November 7, 2013, 7:39 GMT

    @ FFLPWH - hilarious name, Aussie larinkinism is alive and well!!

  • on November 7, 2013, 7:41 GMT

    Don't forget the the test in Auckland in 2002, play went on for an hour or more in pure dark under lights. Fielders couldn't see the ball. Nor could the spectators. That situation is even more ludicrous.

  • ShutTheGate on November 7, 2013, 7:43 GMT

    The two captain should also have a gentleman's agreement to not "bat for a draw".

    There's nothing worse in test cricket when a team wins the toss bats around 500 in the first innings declares and then the second team comes out plays for time as opposed for a win.

    As a spectator I find this "totally unsatisfactory" and "clearly unacceptable"

  • on November 7, 2013, 8:03 GMT

    Shut the gate - this is Test cricket, the idea is to win first, if not possible to draw. I suggest you stick to ODI cricket! Some the best Tests of recent years have been draws with teams clinging on on the last day.

  • northumbriannomad on November 7, 2013, 8:29 GMT

    @Abhishek Burman Yeah, right - in England the sun sets around 9 or 10 in summer, and there've been no problems with evening light in England at all, have there?

    This is a good proposal and it's just common sense. Cricket makes itself look ridiculous in these bad light situations, and Test cricket is in enough trouble as it is. The only issue is player safety, and that's more an issue for fielders than batsman. Floodlights solve the problem.

  • on November 7, 2013, 8:39 GMT

    I felt sorry for the umpires in the 5th Test. They took the players off and were criticised for not allowing the play to continue. Had they kept the players on they would have been criticised (more) for not following the rules that are in place to ensure the result is fair.

    I think if there are flood lights in place, it should be decided in advance that they are adequate and play should continue regardless of light (unless there is a light failure).

    We won't miss the poor quality acting from players when they unsubtly tell the other batsmen how difficult it is to see the ball in earshot of the umpire, or the fielders holding their hands up in dismay because they want to make sure the umpire knows they can't see the ball.

  • R_U_4_REAL_NICK on November 7, 2013, 9:13 GMT

    Players will still be called off in the evenings when the floodlights come on because the pitches will be swarmed by moths...

  • Rahim_A on November 7, 2013, 9:17 GMT

    "...the enforcement of reasonable over rates, which slowed to glacial speeds at times in England" - surely this is the most important point. The ECB, CA and all boards across the world should ensure that time wasting tactics are not being used to stifle the speed of the game. All the lights in the world will not make a difference if captains, coaches and teams are hell bent on slowing the game down. With regards to the Oval test England wasted a lot of time but were only in a position to chase down the target due to a generous deceleration from Michael Clarke so I'm not sure why Giles Clarke is moaning - he should have been asking questions of the England team as to why they were using gamesmanship earlier in the test.