Victoria v Tasmania, Sheffield Shield at the MCG, day 1 (D/N)
When describing something that is certain, people tend to go for one of two cliches. One involves taxes and death (not necessarily in that order) and the other goes something along the lines of “as surely as night follows day”.
This cliche has become something of a fact for professional sport, as much of it has progressed from a daytime event to being played under lights, whether it’s a football code, horse racing, or tennis, night sport seems to be in the majority now. Even lawn bowls has experimented with night games! There are exceptions – a few sports have held off on moving to nighttime due to practicality (Golf) and some have moved back to daytime to take advantage of the clear TV schedules (basketball, netball), but the majority of major sports seems to favour a night time slot.
One form of sport which has held off on the nighttime experiment so far has been test cricket – leaving its 50 and then 20 over short forms to take the “spotlight”. But, clearly, that’s about to change. This week, Cricket Australia is playing a full round of Sheffield Shield cricket in a Day/Night format, with a view to playing Tests which stretch into the nighttime as soon as 2015.
Essentially, four things have changed.
1. The timings;
2. The colour of the ball;
3. The colour of the sightscreens; and
4. The lights are on.
That’s it, but against over a century of tradition, these are big changes.
The timings mean the matches start at 2pm and stretch to as late as 9.30pm. This makes it easier for people to attend after work, and this was the case for me tonight as I wandered down to the MCG after clocking off. I saw on twitter that a few others, including a few CBD workers, had made the same decision. Although I left about 8.45pm to catch a train (obviously there was was no extra public transport for a Shield game), I think a 9.30pm finish is far better than the almost 11pm finish for some T20 games. It would have been even earlier if the over rates had been quicker! That being said, one aspect of Shield cricket which had not changed was the crowd – it was still tiny, with only 2 of the 4 stands open and they were far from full.
The pink ball didn’t seem to be a problem to me as a spectator. I found it as easy to follow the pink ball in the air as I do a red one. The batsmen clearly found it easy as well, as they got good shots away, especially former test players Tim Paine and Rob Quiney. There was no suggestion that the ball was difficult to see when bowled by the pacemen. It seemed to be swinging and seaming in a manner similar to a usual red ball. If anything, the bowler who performed best in the conditions was a spinner – Fawad Ahmed.
When I arrived, Tasmania were 2 for 127, and as I stepped into the ground, the 3rd wicket, Wells, fell. When I left, At about 8.45pm, Tassie had collapsed to be all out for 206. I don’t think there was any suggestion that the wickets were caused by the pink ball. Ahmed bowled well and the ball seemed to retain its shape, colour and seam.
At around 5.45pm the lights came on. Around this time, the shadows were across the pitch and it seemed the conditions might be tough for the batsmen. However, the batsmen got away some great shots which suggested they had no problem. When the players returned after the Tea (or should that be dinner?) break, the artificial lights had taken over and the lighting in the ground was consistent.
As for the sight screen, the big black sheets did the job, and I would be interested to hear what the batsmen had to say about visibility. The big tarps certainly didn’t take up any space that a crowd would otherwise have occupied though…
Those four things are the only changes. There was no coloured uniforms, music, or anything else which might change the game or make it like a T20. All in all it seems a worthy experiment, and I will be interested to hear the players views. If there are no loud objections, I expect the first day/night tests to be scheduled soon – and I expect them to be in Adelaide and Brisbane, who are hosting the two other day/night shield games on at the moment. Brisbane gets great crowds on weekends but never gets a clear stretch of holidays on which to host their tests, like Sydney and Melbourne do. Maybe a day night match might help? The initial novelty of the night test and then the convenience of the timings will hopefully boost crowds in each venue, and even be a tourist draw card for people to travel to those states while the concept is new and unusual. I don’t expect the Melbourne Boxing Day test to go Day/Night (it’s successful anyway, and a move would also occupy space being used by the Big Bash), but a second Melbourne test may be an option?
If you’re heading along to a game this week I’d be interested to hear your thoughts – I’m heading along again tomorrow with a couple of mates and I’ll let you know if my opinion changes (maybe it might if the Vics collapse)!
Yours in Sport