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Four-day format 'encourages positive cricket' - de Villiers

The Port Elizabeth Test didn't even get to its scheduled halfway point, but it still gave players from both sides enough time to form opinions about four-day Test cricket and playing under lights with the pink ball

Assessing whether four-day, day-night Tests have a future on the evidence of a match that lasted less than two days and only had one night session is a bit like deciding to move to India having only seen a picture of the Taj Mahal. Still, in the 907 balls of the Port Elizabeth Test, players from both teams saw enough to form a few opinions.
On four-day Tests:
The match didn't even get to its halfway point, but knowing there were only four days scheduled may have pushed South Africa to be more aggressive than usual. "The batters were a little bit more positive," their stand-in captain AB de Villiers said. "There were talks of declaring earlier than normal. It encourages more positive cricket. I still enjoy five-day [Tests] as well but there is an excitement in this format. We all enjoyed it and I think the spectators will enjoy it as well."
On day-night Tests and the pink ball:
As in previous day-night Tests, the pink ball moved around markedly more under lights. Zimbabwe took five of their nine wickets after the dinner break on day one, and the game's only centurion, Aiden Markram, felt it was the most difficult time to bat. "From that twilight phase that everyone speaks about, I do feel it moves around quite a bit," he said, after day one.
Because teams know the advantage of bowling in the third session, the side that wins the toss will most often look to bat first and have accumulated the bulk of their runs before the lights come on. They may even, as was the case with South Africa, declare earlier than usual in order to put the opposition in when it is most difficult to bat.
"Declarations will play a big part in day-night Tests with teams declaring a bit earlier or a bit later, because every seam attack will want to bowl at night," Zimbabwe captain Graeme Cremer said. "Like anything, the more it happens the more experience you'll get in knowing when to declare and which bowlers to bowl.
"It's also, during the day, about not pushing your seamers too hard and keeping them for that night period. All the batsmen are going to want to bat during the day but not at night."
As a result of that, the team batting under lights may look to rejig their batting line-up slightly to ensure their best batsman only get to the crease when conditions are easier to bat in. Cremer confessed to having "four of our tailenders padded up in the change room to get them out the way and to give our batsmen a chance during the day. It was a tactic that got forced on us but it's something we're going to have a look at."
Both teams still had concerns about the pink ball. De Villiers, who made 53 on the first day, and Heath Streak, the Zimbabwe coach, said the batsmen struggled to pick the seam.
The ball has also been known to wear and become soft fairly easily which necessitates pitches to be prepared to make things a little easier for the bowlers, with more grass left on them. De Villiers admitted that could skew the game further.
"Zimbabwe had the worst of the conditions last night," he said. "They ran into a wicket that was really spicy and it was going to spice up again this evening."

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent