The unwinnable day-nighter

The third Test against Australia in Adelaide in November will be a day-nighter after all.

I can’t say that categorically but if I was a betting man I’d be enquiring about the odds after the SA Cricketers Association chief executive, Tony Irish, was heavily quoted as saying it would be “extremely disadvantageous” to the Proteas who have never faced or bowled a single delivery with a pink ball between and that it was “highly unlikely” to happen.

Cricket Australia employs about 100 people in its media department and, although some of them are just out of school, their bosses are pretty savvy when it comes to media ‘management’. Like when they ‘leaked’ the tour itinerary to the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper a week before it was officially announced, complete with plenty of Ra-Ra-Yippee about Adelaide hosting its second day-night Test match.

No such agreement had been reached, of course, but this was guaranteed to put South Africa on the back foot, apply the pressure and ensure they would be seen as the bad guys if they said ‘no thanks’.

It was only the beginning. There are still six months to go before the start of the tour and seven until the Adelaide Test. In the CA press release the third Test was described as a “potential day-night” fixture. Cricket Australia chief executive, James Sutherland, admitted that he would be trying to convince his South African counterparts to change their collective mind.

The use of public sentiment has started, too. Apart from the 123,000 deliriously happy fans who all had the greatest cricket experience of their lives, Sutherland carefully reminded reporters that South Africa TV viewers at home would also have an enhanced experience with the match starting at 5:30am rather than 3:00am.

The first articles and columns have already been written and published about South African cricket’s “conservatism” and lack of adventure. When then team are in trouble or confronted by something new or defensive, they instinctively defend – so the theme goes.

Notice Cricket South Africa’s silence on the matter? I suspect they know how difficult this is going to get. Even if they stick to their principles and back the players who want a normal, daylight Test, they will lose the PR battle by a record score. Perhaps another million dollar purse, as there was for last season inaugural day-nighter against New Zealand, will make a difference. Or maybe it will simply be the relentless weight of pressure and criticism which will cause the roof of objection to collapse.

I suspect the first day’s play at the Adelaide Oval on November 24th will start at 2:30pm.

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