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Pink ball an 'innovation here to stay'

It is, in many ways, appropriate that the Adelaide Oval is the venue for the inaugural pink ball Test.

The pitch is less abrasive and kinder to the experimental ball than other Australian wickets. In fact, an extra few millimetres of grass will top the drop-in pitch in an effort to ensure the pink ball holds up for the required number of overs. On top of that, there are only three pitches on the wicket block, leaving an unusually lush square.

The cricket-loving Adelaide crowd also guarantees a positive backdrop for television. While empty seats served as a sobering wallpaper to Mitchell Johnson's final international overs at the WACA and to Australia's bowlers holding sway at the Gabba, 40000 fans are expected for the first day of the Adelaide Test and ticket sales - described as "Ashes-like" - are tracking strongly for the following days. Again, there has been extra assistance, with cheap "twilight" tickets available for $20 after 4 PM local time, effectively giving spectators two sessions for a bargain price.

But, while Cricket Australia is nurturing the conditions to create the best possible chance for the concept to succeed, it's in Adelaide that they have possibly the most willing ally possible.

SACA chief executive Keith Bradshaw, the former Tasmania cricketer, has long been a staunch supporter of day-night first-class cricket. During almost five years (2006-2011) as secretary and chief executive of MCC, he has helped pioneer the pink-ball concept when he pushed for the traditional curtain raiser to the English season, MCC v County Champions, to be moved from Lord's to Abu Dhabi.

"I feel really proud, but also really privileged, to have been involved with the development of the pink ball for such a long period of time," Bradshaw said. "I think it's an innovation that is here to stay and I think we're only going to see more and more day-night Test cricket.

"We were really concerned. Test cricket is the pinnacle and we really want Test cricket to survive into the future. During my time at MCC nine or ten years ago we recognised the falling numbers, particularly in the subcontinent, and we needed to innovate and bring in day-night Test cricket, hence the development of the pink ball.

"But we also needed to preserve the integrity: the balance between bat and ball, the contest that takes place. That was very important. Now, we're at a point where the pink ball is going to deliver us that contest. I think this is the start of a really important journey, and we really have an exciting future ahead of us."

While the players' enthusiasm for the pink ball is hardly universal - many have expressed doubts about the concept and the quality of the ball - their reservations are unlikely to carry much weight with the game's administrators if the inaugural Test proves to be a hit with television audiences and, to a lesser extent, spectators within the ground.

While many officials around the world will be watching keenly from afar, members of the committee Bradshaw once chaired will have a first-hand view of preparations. The MCC World Cricket Committee will gather at the Adelaide Oval during the two days leading into the Test and Bradshaw will use the opportunity to push for further breaks with tradition when he delivers the welcome address to the conference.

Bradshaw has thrown support behind former Australia captain and current Cricket Australia board member, Mark Taylor, in calling for the introduction of four-day Tests and a Test world championship. ECB chairman Colin Graves has also publicly voiced his support for shorter Tests.

"I think it has a range of benefits that it could offer us as a game," Bradshaw said. "You would look at four-day Test cricket with a number of other initiatives, such as [counting for] points for a Test world championship.

"With day-night Test cricket, with four-day Test cricket, with a Test championship, I think it's a case of let's fish where the fish are. I think that's what people would like. It would also enable us to start Test matches on a Thursday, finish on a Sunday, the players have a three-day break and back into the next Test match. I think it's definitely worth looking at.

"If we had four-day Test matches there would be incentives to get results in four days, and I think we would see pitches prepared that would produce results within the four days. I can see many, many benefits of four-day Test cricket, and not a lot of downside."

While the concept has its supporters, many traditionalists - not to mention spinners - strongly disagree. It remains to be seen which side of the fence the World Cricket Committee plants its flag.