The excitement surrounding the second day-night Test match is missing this time. It is different to what it was last year. Last year the first ever day-night Test match between Australia and New Zealand for the Trans-Tasman trophy was highly anticipated.
The match got many monikers.
Pink ball match or as Jimmy Neesham coined it, instead of red-cherry, it is pink-pomegranate.
First day-night Test match.
Test match under the lights.
There was excitement surrounding this match. There was anxiety surrounding this match.
There was anticipation and hope for what it would do to bring back the dwindling crowd at Test matches to utter disgust to what it would do the most sacrosanct form of the game.
It was a battle between those who were all for embracing change to those who wanted to leave this form of the game untouched.
Traditionalist proclaimed, let us not tamper with the tradition of Test cricket. I, for one, however, all for tradition, was of the opinion, how about starting a new tradition? And that is what I believe, this Test match was. Still in its nascent stages, if this version is able to revive interest in the longer version of the game, why not continue with it. And of course, while fully acknowledging that this is still work in progress, keep fine tuning till a near perfect version is achieved.
Reminiscing on the match of last year, the buzz around it was infectious. While, it did have many doubters, there was more positive vibes surrounding the match. (Got to acknowledge the PR work!). And whether you were a supporter or an opposer, everybody still was looking forward to the match. To how the game would pan out. To how the players would approach it. How would it be for the batsmen, for the bowlers and even for the fielders? The pink-pomegranate, of course, was the most talked about both before and after the match.
Once the match began, with the buzz still surrounding the novelty of first ever day-night Test match, the focus shifted entirely towards the game. And rightly so. Because, first and foremost, it was about the game of cricket. Irrespective of whether it was under natural lights or artificial lights.
The match lasted only for three days. It was a low scoring contest with the pink ball playing its part, especially in that twilight period where it ‘acted’ up. The second innings chase of 187 runs, a tricky total in cricketing terms did test Australian batters who finally managed to win it with three wickets.
Was all the hype surrounding the match warranted? Absolutely. It needed that noise, that-look-at-me-I-am-here, for sure. And definitely, everybody did take notice. Other cricketing boards having been trying to see how it could work out in their respective home conditions. And Pakistan and West Indies played the second day-night Test match in UAE.
Now around the first anniversary we have the second day-night Test match to be held at the same venue, Adelaide Oval, this time between Australia and South Africa. Sadly, the buzz this time around is not so much around the day-night Test as much as where Australia finds itself in the game. With the series already lost, the battered and bruised Australian team is fighting for pride. On the other hand, South Africa are looking for a back-to-back whitewash, first 5-0 in limited overs at home and now 3-0 in Test matches away from home. Of course, South Africa also would want to prove a point after their captain Faf du Plessis was found guilty of ball tampering.
A controversy that could have been well avoided.
Coming back to the first anniversary of this day-night Test match here are some of my memories…
-Because of the time difference I had to stay up all night to watch the match. Slept on the couch for all the three days. And yes, I did doze off in between!
– Mitchell Santner. The Iceman. As I like to call him. He’ll be the only cricketer to have made his debut in the inaugural day-night Test match. And what a debut it was! He looked like a veteran playing in his first Test match. If there were nerves, if there were plenty of butterflies in the stomach, have to give to him, he is a good actor then! Because he didn’t show any. It was all perfectly normal for him. He had to bat for his team, because his team needed those runs. And as the cliché goes, more than the runs, it was the manner in which he scored them. Totally unfazed by everything surrounding him. In the low scoring match, he scored in both the innings, with the highest score (45) for NZ in the second innings.
-If one thing that took away from the match it was Nigel Llong’s decision as third umpire and his famous line, “it could have come from anything”. This was in reference to the mark that Hot Spot showed. Nathan Lyon was the batsman and even he had started his walk back to the pavilion when he saw that replay on the big screen. But like a man who is fighting for life in water, clings on to the only lifeline available till on the shores safely, Lyon hanged on this Llong lifeline and batted for 31. Australia were 116/8 and Lyon and Peter Neville partnership of 74 helped them get a slim lead. It definitely was the moment that changed the entire complexion of the match.
-The most disappointing thing about Llong’s decision was that he was using technology to arrive at the decision. And he still got it wrong.
-Some of the photos from this match were indeed very picturesque. So was the almost festival like mood surrounding the match, at least that I what I could sense watching the match on TV. It was a mood of hope, of hope for the future of Test cricket and of connecting with the younger audience.
While Llong’s decision did take some shine away from the first day-night Test match, it still left some wonderful memories. Memories of the crowd thronging in to watch the match. Of the pink ball. Of Kane Williamson unable to spot the seam to Brendon McCullum wondering, seam, what seam? “I don’t even see seam on the red-cherry!” Of Mitchell Starc walking in with his plastered hand to score the winning runs. Of Mitchell Santner and his cool, calm, and collected demeanor.
Let us wait and watch what is in store for the second day-night Test at Adelaide Oval. Will there be the same festive mood that was there last year? Or has the home team’s performance dampen the mood of the public? Will Australia rise from the sweet reverse swing and give something for their fans to cheer ? Or will South Africa prevail to complete the sweet and cool minty white wash?
Cannot wait till for the umpire to say, let’s play gentlemen!