Four day, day-night Test – success!

Day-Night, Four-day Test – Success!

There will be many who point to the scorecard of the St.George’s Park Test against Zimbabwe and use it as evidence that the Test experiment – four day, day/night – was a disaster and should never be revisited.

I suggest that those people will be attempting to use the ‘evidence’ to support a preconceived hypothesis based on a reluctance to change. Or, as it is more popularly called, “traditional values.”

Zimbabwe lost 20 wickets in 72.4 overs because they aren’t very good and because they play so little Test cricket, not because they were facing a pink ball under lights.

Conditions changed dramatically when the sun went down and the floodlights were turned on but conditions change in Test cricket just as much with nature as they do with man-made interventions. Hundreds of times in Test cricket’s 140-year life teams have batted under hot, cloudless skies and then bowled under leaden clouds against a previously gun-barrel straight ball which is suddenly swinging.

The difference is that you can’t plan for nature. But you can plan for the change in conditions at the end of a day-night Test. Improve batting techniques, score faster during the day, manipulate the game to make sure you get the best of the batting and bowling conditions. Change your thinking. Move with the times.

Test cricket is being marginalised all the time. Changing the format to four days may just save it. With Test matches starting on Thursday and finishing on Sunday, a three-match series can be scheduled for three weeks. No more bleak, crowd free Monday finishes. If you don’t believe me, you should have heard AB de Villiers at St.George’s Park.

“It’s like any other format,” de Villiers said. “You have to adapt, find ways, game plans, structures and strategies to get through certain times of the Test match. It looks like the last hour is tough to bat and that is an area that guys need to be aware of. You need to tighten up as a batsman but on the other side the bowler has an opportunity to expose the batting line-up. It’s a mind set and awareness of knowing what times are a little bit better to bat on and which aren’t. There is room for day-night Test cricket, we love playing it.”

I like and respect traditionalists because I am one. But I’m also a realist. Administrators in every country are doing all they can to cash in with domestic T20 leagues. They are expanding those which exist already and implementing plans to start new ones. Five-day Tests will be gone, outside the Ashes and a few other elite series, within five years. Day-night Tests will comprise a third of all fixtures. It’s happening. Adapt.

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