Floodlights restriction hurts Sri Lanka's chase
Sri Lanka Cricket's attempts to cut operational costs has affected the cricket in the first ODI, when the hosts lost wickets chasing a Duckworth-Lewis equation, after light faded quickly in the late afternoon. Angelo Mathews said the deteriorating light at the Premadasa Stadium had spurred a change in his team's approach, as they pursued 305. However, he had not been consulted before SLC and Cricket South Africa signed the memorandum of understanding that prevented the lights being switched on when conditions became too dark for comfort.
Kumar Sangakkara and Lahiru Thirimanne had sought to accelerate their scoring in the gloom, ostensibly to get ahead of the Duckworth-Lewis equation, but both lost their wickets attempting expansive strokes. There had also been the threat of rain when the pair were at the crease, though that did not materialise through the course of the evening.
The ICC's playing conditions does not make the use of floodlights compulsory for day matches, even if the light dips below what is normally acceptable on a ground with floodlight facilities. An SLC official confirmed financial savings had been the primary driver behind SLC's decision to exercise that leeway, while SLC CEO Ashley de Silva said even foreign boards do not contractually allow floodlight use in day matches when Sri Lanka tour.*
"No board wants to have that back-up system for day games," de Silva said. "That happened to us even in England. Actually, when the MOU was drafted and being discussed, this light issue never even cropped up, so both boards were in agreement."
Floodlights had originally been unavailable for the Saturday's match in Hambantota as well, but SLC and CSA have arranged to have a generator on standby for that match, since the events of first ODI.** That two of the three games are being played in the day is also, in part, thanks to cost-cutting.
Mathews largely blamed two dropped catches and poor shot selection for the defeat, but said the encroaching darkness had also played a part.
"When we hit the 34-over mark, it was getting dark and we needed to be on top of the Duckworth-Lewis," Mathews said. "Unfortunately, we couldn't use the lights, so we had to stay on top of the D/L. We lost a couple of wickets and then it was all over for us.
"We had a good game in our hands at one point. Unfortunately, the situation changes and we've got to go with the situation. In the end we had to change our approach a little because of the light, but we also didn't play well. If we can use the lights, it will be good because it gets a bit dark in the evening. I'm not really sure why, but we were told at the match referee's meeting we won't be able to use it."
South Africa captain AB de Villiers played down the impact of Sri Lanka's change of tack in the 34th over, suggesting the hosts' aggression had the potential to take the game away from South Africa as well. But he was also vexed by the inability to use the floodlights in a stadium equipped with them.
"I didn't think we should be playing when it was dark like that," he said. "We would like to use the lights. I would like us to play under lights when that happens again."
*The confirmation that savings had been SLC's motivation for not allowing floodlight use was originally attributed to Ashley de Silva. It had been provided by another SLC official. **Details of the new arrangement for the Hambantota ODI have been updated following SLC's release on Tuesday.
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @andrewffernando