The jury is still out on England’s day-night Test trial

(Photo: Getty Images)

By Chris Stocks

So how was it for you? The first day-night Test match in the UK, I mean. Yes, the cricket at Edgbaston may have been ludicrously one-sided as England obliterated the West Indies inside three days.

But, more importantly, did the day-night concept work and is it something people would like to see more of in this country?

There’s no doubt that the three pink-ball Tests staged so far in Australia have proved a success. We’ll have another one in Adelaide in December with the first day-night Ashes match.

That’s what pushed the England & Wales Cricket Board into trialling the concept in the UK this summer.

For Warwickshire, the match was a commercial success, with sell-out crowds for the three days play lasted and merchandise and bar takings up.

Neil Snowball, the Warwickshire chief executive, said: “From a club perspective, it was great and commercially we exceeded all our targets in terms of ticket sales, retail catering and merchandising even though it was finished in three days.

“It was very good for the city as well. It was good for the profile of Edgbaston and from our point of view a terrific success.”

The ECB, too, are believed to have been encouraged and are considering introducing day-night Tests as an annual event.

I would be very cautious about that. In my opinion, the concept doesn’t work in the UK, where the days are long and the weather not warm enough to provide a pleasurable al fresco experience once the sun goes in.

In Australia, where the evenings are warm and the days far shorter, day-night cricket makes sense.

In Birmingham, the later start time didn’t fit in with the traditional Test-match habits of English supporters.

As usual, most people had taken the day off to go to the Test and many headed to the pub mid-morning, getting pre-loaded for the day ahead. No wonder so many then decided to go home when the weather turned after tea and missed the final session.

There were, according to Warwickshire, around 40 per cent of ticket-holders who had never attended an Edgbaston Test before. While that is to be encouraged, this new audience appeared to be made up mainly of the guys who treat T20s as mood music for their drinking sessions rather than women, children or others who are genuinely new supporters of the game. And it is highly likely such ‘new’ devotees to day-night cricket will move on to something else when the novelty  wears off.

Warwickshire clearly benefitted from that novelty factor. A normal daytime Test against West Indies would have got nowhere close to selling out for any day let alone all three.

In general, though, Tests in this country struggle to sell tickets only when they are early summer against poor opposition in the wrong location – think Sri Lanka at Durham in late May or early June.  Making a fixture such as that a pink-ball Test would surely not solve the underlying problem of a dud draw.

The daily schedule didn’t work at Edgbaston either. The first break should have been ‘tea’ not lunch and lasted 20 minutes not 40.

The second interval should have then been called ‘dinner’ as it is in Australia and been the longer of the two breaks. Such a simple miscalculation in Birmingham left everyone feeling a bit confused, with people kicking their heels for 40 minutes at ‘lunch’ – start time 4pm – having already eaten that meal hours earlier. People were then forced to cram in a proper meal during a rushed 20-minute break in the evening.

It was a simple problem and one that’s easily fixed.

As far as the pink ball is concerned, many people at the ground and watching on TV complained they could not see it properly. As someone who did not suffer from that problem, I can only deduce there are more undiagnosed colour-blind people in this country than we realised. Or maybe my eyes are just a bit younger.

Also, the pink Dukes, as far as I’m concerned, played well, even if the sound off the bat was slightly disconcerting.

But when there is barely an hour of play taking place in total darkness you do wonder what the whole point of day-night cricket in this country is.

England at least got some useful practice ahead of the pink-ball Ashes Test later this year.

And that’s probably the biggest plus we should take away from these three days.

As Snowball says: “The debate will go on as to whether we really need day-night cricket but it was an experiment to see if it works in England. Overall the jury is still out.”

*This article originally featured in The Cricket Paper’s 25 August 2017 edition. Subscribe here

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