Keith Bradshaw, the chief executive of MCC and one of the main pioneers of the pink ball that is currently undergoing floodlit trials in Abu Dhabi, has conceded that further tests and research will be necessary before the ball is ready for use in Test cricket, after a number of flaws were revealed during the ongoing MCC v Champion County fixture at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium.
"If you asked me for a rating I'd probably give it seven out of ten," Bradshaw told Cricinfo. "We had hoped to be able to give it ten out of ten and that, at the end of the trial, we'd be good for Test cricket, but what we have discovered is that there are a couple of improvements that need to be made. Over the coming months we will be doing that, and then we'll get ready for another trial so we can push ahead."
One of the issues raised by players during the match - including Michael di Venuto, who scored a first-innings century for Durham - was that the rotation of the seam was hard to pick when the spin bowlers were in operation. Bradshaw said that rectifying this would be a relatively simple process, but a trickier problem would be ensuring that the dye penetrates sufficiently deeply into the leather to prevent discolouration over the course of the ball's 80-over lifespan.
"Being in Abu Dhabi in such harsh conditions meant that 80 overs on that ball was very severe, so in some ways it really was the ultimate test," said Bradshaw. "[In some places] it has scuffed off, and while it's significantly better than the white ball, it would benefit from the dye being impregnated deeper into the leather. These are a couple of very useful findings, and we feel we're a long way down the road."
The trials have been closely observed by the ICC, whose headquarters are in nearby Dubai, but their general manager of cricket, Dave Richardson, said that the empirical observations from the four-day match would need to be backed up by scientific data before any further steps could be taken towards the ultimate goal of day-night Test cricket.
MCC had initially hoped to stage England's Test against Bangladesh in May under the floodlights at Lord's, but realistically any such aim will now have to be postponed by at least 12 months, after Richardson conceded that there was still too much doubt about the goals of the research for ICC to ratify any such plan.
"Ball manufacturers are saying to us 'you tell us what you need and we'll develop it for you'," said Richardson. "But the thing is we don't know what we need. We don't know if we want an orange ball against a black background or a pink ball against a white background. That is going to be the first step - the scientific approach, to go to these research guys or universities and get them to tell us what we should be asking for.
"The data collected so far is all very much on a hearsay kind of basis - what did the wicketkeeper think, what did the fielders think, what did the TV guys think. Before we even start looking at those kind of projects we need to establish from a scientific point of view what makes sense, whether it's pink or orange. There's a danger in relying on ad-hoc, hearsay-type evidence. It's good to have and it's positive progress but it needs to be backed up by scientific evidence."