The first Test of the four-match series between Australia and India, starting December 17 in Adelaide, will be a day-night affair, played with a pink ball. It's familiar territory for Australia, who are not only at home but have also played seven day-night Tests - the most by any team - since the format launched in a big way in late 2015, pitting Australia and New Zealand in Adelaide. India, meanwhile, have played just one of them, at home, against Bangladesh. We look at the key factors ahead of the series opener.
Day-night Tests - veterans vs newbies
Australia are both pioneers as well as the most dominant team in this format. No team has played as much day-night Test cricket as Australia, who were the first hosts in the format too. They have played seven of the 14 day-night Test matches that have been held since November 2015, and have never lost. The only rider is that all those matches have been at home
. But so is this one.
India trialled day-night first-class cricket in 2016 and it was in their domestic schedule until 2018. But the only pink-ball cricket
India as a team had played - before last week's practice match - was during the Test against Bangladesh in Kolkata last year, which they won by an innings.
How do visiting teams do under lights in Australia?
Not very well. Australia won the last day-night Test, against New Zealand last year, by 296 runs, and both matches before that were innings wins. In fact, since they hung on for a three-wicket win in the inaugural match in 2015, Australia have only ever been troubled by Pakistan, when Asad Shafiq nearly chased down 490 with the lower order in 2016
No visiting batting line-up has averaged
more than 30 per wicket in these matches in Australia, and South Africa's declaration when they were nine down in 2016 is the only innings in which an opposition hasn't been bowled out
Who are Australia's best in the format?
The batting threats facing India are fairly obvious names
, but David Warner, the best of them, is unavailable for the first Test. Warner is the highest run-scorer in day-night matches for Australia with 596 runs in 11 innings, although 335 of those came in one innings. Steven Smith has made 500 in 11 innings, and Marnus Labuschagne has a fifty-plus score in each of his four day-night innings; he has made 436 runs in four innings.
All four of Australia's frontline bowlers have stellar numbers
in day-night Test cricket too. Mitchell Starc has 42 wickets in seven games, a fair distance ahead of the next-best, Nathan Lyon, who has 28 wickets. Josh Hazlewood has 26 wickets in six matches. Add Pat Cummins' 19 wickets in four games and you get a relentless attack that has taken quickly to pink-ball cricket.
Pace, spin... what works best under lights in Adelaide?
The stats of Australian bowlers mentioned above might suggest parity between pace and spin in day-night matches, but that is not remotely the case. Fast bowlers have taken 101 wickets at 26.76 in Adelaide, while spinners have gone at 49.83 for their 24 wickets. Pink-ball cricket in general, regardless of venue, has been skewed in favour of fast bowlers, but these particular numbers offer an insight into how good Lyon has been.
He is an outlier in these conditions, whether in red-ball cricket or pink-ball. Kuldeep Yadav is the only other spinner since the start of 2015 to have taken at least one five-wicket haul in Australia; Lyon has five in that period. The only other elite-tier spinner
to bowl under lights in Australia is Yasir Shah, who averages 123.66 and goes at 4.35 for this three wickets in three innings. At Adelaide Oval, Mark Craig, Mitchell Santner, Moeen Ali and Tabraiz Shamsi have all played two Tests each without taking more than two wickets.
So, apart from dealing with fast bowlers who thrive under lights, India will have the challenge of dealing with Lyon, who has been just as destructive. The luxury of being watchful against fast bowling and attacking against spinners is one that only Australia's batsmen have enjoyed so far in day-night games.
But why does Lyon do so well in Adelaide, especially when compared to other spinners? It must help that the batsmen are often under pressure against pace at the other end; and on a less abstract level, Starc's footmarks
might have a lot to do with it.
What is the best time to make runs in Adelaide?
The trend in day-night Tests is that scoring is easiest in the second session, and this holds true at Adelaide Oval as well. Another matching trend is that wickets fall at roughly the same average in the first and last sessions. In Adelaide, teams lose a wicket every 29.4 runs on average in the third session, and every 28.72 runs in the first session of a day. In the middle session, that numbers goes up to 33.41.
The ratios are a big difference, however, from day games in Adelaide where the average is 53.52 in the middle session and between 35 and 37 and in the other two sessions. A floodlit version of an Adelaide Test offers significantly more to the bowlers.
How much of a difference does the twilight period make?
An inevitable discussion in day-night games is the period at the end of the second session and the start of the third, which coincides with the sunset. With various factors in play - a change from natural to artificial light, a sudden cooling of the temperature, change in wind patterns - bowlers and captains have often remarked on the potential for wickets during that phase. Faf du Plessis notoriously declared
when South Africa were nine down while he was still batting on a century, just so his bowlers could have a crack with the new ball under lights.
But the numbers don't show any major differences. At Adelaide Oval, as is the case with day-night cricket overall, the bowling strike rates are identical in the first, second and third sessions: 50.2, 52.48, and 52.56 respectively
Stats inputs by Gaurav Sundararaman
Varun Shetty is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo