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South Africa set for long hours of work with pink ball

JP Duminy scored 97 and 32 not out against the pink ball on South Africa's first warm-up game on the tour Cricket Australia/Getty Images

For the next week, the South African squad will not be enjoying romantic sunsets with their other halves. Instead, at twilight, they want to be on the cricket field, preparing for their first day-night Test in the time frame they have identified as the trickiest to play with the pink ball.

As the natural light fades and artificial ones take over, the pink ball becomes what JP Duminy called "gloomy" and, so, more difficult to see. Duminy admitted the South African players, who have limited experience with the pink ball, don't really understand whether the colouration of ball or the changing hues from the environment affect visibility but confirmed the contrast is significant. "It's definitely a difference that you see, but I can't give you the scientific reason why that is. We've still got to work that out."

At dusk, the pink ball also starts to move a little more and so, for batsmen, survival in that period is key. "You've just got to fight through that phase," Duminy said. "It's obviously new to us, pink-ball cricket and day-night Test cricket. We've got to get used to it. And that's why we wanted to bat as much as possible in that period during the warm-up game."

For their warm-up match at the MCG on Saturday night, South Africa chose to bowl first to give their batsmen time in the middle when things got tough. The sun only set around 8pm - which will be the same as Adelaide - so the first hour of the final session is the most crucial. The second hour of that session takes place in complete darkness when Duminy said it actually becomes "a little bit easier" to see the ball.

Hashim Amla batted through that twilight period and it became clear that his scoring slowed and the only chance he gave away, a catch to slip, came then. Both Duminy and Faf du Plessis were dismissed then too. With net sessions scheduled for that time, Duminy is hopeful they can tighten up. "I don't know if it's a danger, maybe it's just something we need to be wary of. The more we can spend time in that light... it's the same sort of thing in the practice nets as well. The more we can spend time under that sort of light, the easier it will be for us."

The converse of all that is South Africa could end up in the field at that time, when their bowlers will come into play in a big way. After Steven Smith lamented Australia's inability against the seaming, swinging or spinning ball, it may transpire that they too have problems against the pink ball, even though they are more experienced with it.

Kyle Abbott and Tabraiz Shamsi were the most economical and effective bowlers at the MCG, but Duminy believes South Africa's entire attack would prove useful with pink ball in hand. "KG [Kagiso Rabada] has been pretty effective too, he swings the ball a little bit," Duminy said. "The main thing is that most the guys are in good form, which is great for us, and it's not determined by the colour of the ball in terms the areas you want to hit, the lengths you want to it, it stays the same no matter what the colour of the ball."

Twilight is also a tricky time for close-in fielders, so drills will be an important part of this week's practises. "In certain positions, it becomes a little more challenging. It's all about preparation; how much time you can spend in that light, catching balls, fielding," Duminy said."If you think about any sort of sport - if you think about a golfer, for example, he needs to be on the practise range to get better. That's the sort of approach we are taking."

Because South Africa had not any time on the range, so to speak, before this tour, they were hesitant about playing a pink-ball Test when it was first proposed. Their major worry was that the series would be riding on the match and they would be at a disadvantage. The opposite has happened.

As a contest, the series is over and this fixture is a dead-rubber, albeit with a difference: it's Australia's chance for redemption and South Africa's to rally around a captain with a cloud hanging over him. Still, Duminy believes they hold the advantage. "We are probably sitting in the pound seats in terms of the concerns around the pink-ball Test but that doesn't change the motivation and the desire to win the game," Duminy said. "The goal was always to win the series, however that came about; now we sit with an opportunity to win 3-0, so that's the new goal."