Cricket Australia plans to trial day-night first-class cricket with the longer-term aim of playing a Test in the country under lights. The ninth round of the Sheffield Shield this season will be a day-night affair with pink balls in Queensland, South Australia and Victoria.
If these attempts are successful, CA will look to schedule more day-night first-class matches in the 2014-15 season to further trial playing conditions and equipment. The matches are the first step towards a potential day-night Test being played in Australia in 2015-16, according to a CA release, and the board has been in talks with New Zealand Cricket about the possibility, with the neighbours slated to come visiting towards the end of 2015.
"There is a lot of work to be done and nothing is guaranteed but this summer's trials are our first serious effort to make day-night Test cricket a reality," CA CEO James Sutherland said. "We've also had some discussions with New Zealand Cricket to gauge their interest in the concept over the past few weeks given they are due to tour Australia in late 2015.
"This is all about the fans. Cricket can't afford to sit on its hands and must keep working hard to ensure Tests remain the most popular form of the game. There isn't a major team sport in the world that schedules the majority of its premium content during the working week. At least three days of a Test are played when adults are at work and kids are at school.
"No doubt there will be some resistance along the way but for the sake of growing the game in the long term, cricket needs to address the hurdles standing in the way of day-night Test cricket in a rational, mature way."
Sutherland acknowledged the challenges in the way, specifically those relating to developing a ball that works under lights for the long format and about the peculiar problems night conditions would pose. "We acknowledge that one of the critical aspects is how the ball wears, behaves and is seen over the course of an innings. There are also some concerns about dew on the ground at night. There may need to be some flexibility and compromise to get to the outcome."
The ICC last year approved the idea of day-night Tests, a decision which was welcomed by Sutherland, but left it to member boards to decide on the hours of play and the colour of the ball. Pakistan's offer to Sri Lanka to play a Test under lights in January 2014 on their tour to the United Arab Emirates was turned down by the latter, which cited its players' lack of practice with the pink ball as the source of their reluctance. Day-night first-class matches have been trialled before in Pakistan, South Africa, England, West Indies, India and Bangladesh.
"In encouraging teams to trial Test cricket as day-night matches, the ICC has said it will take a positive and flexible view of any proposed amendments to playing conditions that will allow such trials to proceed," Sutherland said. "CA's commitment to Test cricket does not just extend to our men's team being the best in the world. We also have a responsibility to help grow interest in Test cricket around the world. To achieve this, we need to try and find a way to schedule our premium content at a time when the most number of fans are able to attend and watch.
"The game needs to continue to evolve to meet the needs of its fans. We are not proposing all Tests should be played at night in the long-term, however, there are certain venues and times of the year where day-night Test cricket can potentially enhance and further promote and support the game."