As multi-day cricket ventures cautiously into the realm of day-night fixtures, the pink ball is a central character in the unfolding plot. Its next appearance is set to be at the iconic Eden Gardens, in the final of West Bengal's Super League, to be played under lights from June 18 to June 21. This will mark the pink ball's first use in competitive cricket in India. ESPNcricinfo looks back at the pink ball's first appearances in multi-day competitive cricket elsewhere.
The West Indies
The first time a pink ball was delivered in a first-class match was fifteen days into this decade, when Guyana and Trinidad & Tobago locked horns in a day-night fixture in Antigua, in the second round of the Regional Four Day Competition. Guyana's Esuan Crandon delivered that first ball, but it was his opening partner, Brandon Bess, who got the first ever first-class scalp with a pink cherry. The landmark match ended in a draw, but was followed by three more day-night matches in the West Indies' 2009-10 first-class season.
MCC and Durham met at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi, from March 29, 2010, for the first Champion County match to be played outside England. It was also the first English first-class match to be played under lights with a pink ball. Durham won the match by a massive margin of 311 runs but, more significantly, a tradition was born - every Champion County match since then has been played in Abu Dhabi, under lights with a pink ball.
The following year, Old Blighty welcomed the pink ball for a Division Two County Championship match between Kent and Glamorgan. The match, played under lights at St Lawrence Ground, Canterbury, from September 12, 2011, ended in a romping eight-wicket win for the visitors. While this was the first time a pink ball was used in a first-class match in England, there had already been a pink-ball ODI in the country - between England Women and Australia Women in Wormsley, on July 5, 2009.
In December 2011, Pakistan used a pink ball in the final of the 2011-12 Quaid-e-Azam trophy, its domestic first-class competition. It worked a treat for Pakistan International Airlines, who swept to a nine-wicket victory against Zarai Taraqiati Bank Limited at the National Stadium in Karachi. It was used again at the same venue in the final of the 2015-16 Quaid-e-Azam trophy in January. With one eye on preparing for Pakistan's day-night Test in Brisbane later this year, the pink balls were imported from Australia for the occasion.
In South Africa, the pink ball's first use in competitive multi-day cricket came in September 2012 - not in a first-class match, but in a four-day match in Potchefstroom, between provincial team North-West and franchise team Knights, arranged specially to trial the pink ball. The quality of the ball emerged as a major source of concern after it had to be changed five times over the course of 112 overs in Knights' first innings. Neither team was impressed with the performance of the pink ball, with players and coaches on both sides raising questions about its durability and visibility. There has been no pink-ball match in the country since then. This may well explain South African players' reluctance to play a pink-ball Test on their forthcoming tour of Australia.
Like in Pakistan, the first pink-ball match in Bangladesh was a final - in this case the final of the inaugural Bangladesh Cricket League, the country's inter-zonal first-class competition. Central Zone beat North Zone by 31 runs in a tight encounter at the Shere Bangla National Stadium in Mirpur, in February 2013. Like in South Africa, the experiment has not been repeated since then.
The pink ball rolled round Down Under in March 2014, when it was trialled for the first time in a round of Sheffield Shield matches. Though the reaction from Australia players was mixed, the pink ball's ascent was swift, leading to its use in the first ever day-night Test, between Australia and New Zealand in Adelaide, in November 2015. Despite some Australian players' misgivings prior to the Test, Australia won the match by three wickets. The public's reaction to the match was positive, and Cricket Australia CEO James Sutherland has since become a strong proponent of day-night Tests.
Sirish Raghavan is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo