At Adelaide, November 27-29, 2015 (day/night). Australia won by three wickets. Toss: New Zealand. Test debut: M. J. Santner.
Pink ball, pink skies, pink champagne. It was the season of the "rose´ ball", as commentary troupe White Line Wireless dubbed it, inferring that the new projectile was the choice for those summer sessions that linger between afternoon and dusk. Adelaide and Lord's rank as cricket's greatest social grounds. A stroll through town hours before play revealed a buzz, pubs overflowing ahead of the 2.00 start. Of 47,441 attending the first day, perhaps a quarter were never in their seats. They were out the back, on the tennis courts and the lawns, in the pop-up carnival of vodka bars, sparkling-wine marquees, Pimm's pavilions and craft-beer tents that sprawled around the ground's flank.
Strings of lights, strings of flags, strings of expletives when the day wore on and the drinks failed to wear off. McCullum finally won a toss, and Starc prepared to send down Test cricket's first delivery with a pink ball. Its colour glowed in the afternoon sunlight, a fragment of a hazard warning or a rave party flickering at the grandstands. And Guptill became its first victim, leg-before to Hazlewood in the fourth over. Afternoon gave way to the crepuscular spectacular, sunset painting the sky, and so to darkness and its new tactical intrigue: rightly or not, no one wanted to bat under lights.
What a contest and what a contrast: from duelling scores of 200 between batsmen in Perth, to 200 between teams in Adelaide. The grass on the pitch merely kept bowlers in the game: plenty of batsmen caused their own demise. Both sides were in it for the duration, and every player was in it when he had his chance. New Zealand gave a debut to their spinning all-rounder Mitchell Santner. Australia replaced the injured Usman Khawaja with Shaun Marsh, ahead of candidates with greater claims, to renewed and strident public protest. Back came Siddle, who quickly showed his worth by drying up Williamson with some tight seam bowling, setting up his dismissal by Starc's yorker.
The tea break included a photo tribute at 4.08 to mark the anniversary of Phillip Hughes's death - 408 was his Test number - at his adopted home ground. In accordance with his family's wishes, the moment was understated, and the cricket pressed on. Latham notched a fine fifty, his first of the series, but Lyon made the breakthrough, as he so often does. Taylor edged Siddle, McCullum was done for pace by Starc, Nevill had three catches in 11 balls, and a steady 94 for two had become a shaky 98 for five.
Santner square-drove his first delivery for four, and his enterprising innings led a brief recovery with Watling, but all out for 202 soon after the 40-minute dinner break looked well short. On the flip side for Australia, Starc had left the field with an ankle problem. They lost Warner and Burns in the evening session, but it was the bright light of the second day that saw things unravel. Voges was done in by beautiful swing, Shaun Marsh by ugly running - McCullum brilliantly throwing down the stumps while prone, after a diving save at mid-off - and Mitchell Marsh to a plain prod. Australia were 80 for five - and New Zealand circling.
Smith had been in command, but aimed a strange slog at Craig, who then removed Siddle in the same over. Santner was appealing for his first Test wicket when he was informed that the supposed caught-behind had in fact brushed Hazlewood's stumps. And Australia should have been 118 for nine, with the hobbled Starc to come, when Lyon swept Santner. The ball clipped the back of his bat, and was caught by Williamson at second slip via Lyon's shoulder. Umpire Ravi said not out, but New Zealand immediately asked for a review. The deviation was clear, as was Hot Spot, but Lyon's forward lunge and body position obscured the stump mike and meant Snicko did not register a sound.
Nor did it register when the ball struck his shoulder, nor did third umpire Nigel Llong register any of that information. Instead he crawled back and forth for five minutes, said the mark on Hot Spot "could have come from anywhere", watched an Eagle Eye prediction of the wrong delivery, and declared it not out. Lyon, standing by the boundary with pink cheeks and a pink mark on his bat, was more surprised than anyone.
The ICC later admitted Llong had got it wrong, but that was too late for a New Zealand side whose focus had been shaken. Lyon batted as if in the cricket version of It's a Wonderful Life, and Nevill went with him. The 74 they slogged would be the highest partnership of the match, and Starc rode that momentum to help add another 34. A potential 84-run deficit had become a 22-run lead. Just as importantly, minutes of relatively benign afternoon batting had been soaked up: New Zealand were very soon playing under lights.
They lost five for 116 that evening, before next day Santner helped drag the score past 200. Hazlewood relished his chance as attack leader, taking a Test-best six for 70, while Mitchell Marsh got Williamson and McCullum. A total of 208 was perhaps 60 short. Australia needed 187, with a session of daylight before a session at night. Boult had struggled for rhythm and pace, but finally came to life. After a fast start, Australia crashed to 66 for three and, with the edgy Shaun Marsh under scrutiny, the collapse was on. This time, he refused to go. He did edge a few, but survived.The suffocating spells of Boult and Bracewell had to end, and McCullum could partner Southee only with Craig's unthreatening spin. Batting with state team-mate Voges, Marsh grew in stature.
They were 72 from winning when Voges edged Boult, and 26 short when Mitchell Marsh holed out. It looked done by then, but there was still time for Boult to get Shaun Marsh, then Nevill. With two required and the limping Starc inexplicably sent in, there were nervous moments for Siddle with seven slips yet no quick singles. Eventually he squeezed the runs, completing a 2-0 series victory. Far bigger was the win for Cricket Australia and their boss James Sutherland, whose years of advocacy of day/night Tests had finally borne fruit. It was no guarantee that the concept would always work, but compelling proof that it could. There would surely be no going back.
Man of the Match: J. R. Hazlewood.