An historic day in Test cricket’s history has gone a long way towards ensuring that the purest form of the game will be protected by its embrace of non traditional means.
Over 47,000 people voted with their feet at Adelaide Oval on Day one of the third Test of what had up until now been an otherwise largely uninspiring series between Australia and New Zealand. Test cricket entered a new dawn, albeit, as far from dawn as it had ever dared dream.
And how Test cricket needed it.
Test cricket has recently found itself mired in mediocrity. A handful of spectators watched England fall to Pakistan in the UAE, on pitches so docile, Karl Pilkington would seem animated by contrast, whilst the West Indies – once the Lazarus of international cricket – continues to cannibalise its stocks, as the contributing nations’ elite turn their backs en masse – for the riches of IPL, or any other bandwagon league offering a quick buck.
The Test series between India and South Africa has descended near farce, with a second day wicket playing more like a mine field, with the flamboyant obviousness of the doctored pitch no less obscured, than had there been a fluorescent sign saying the doctor is in, at the foot of the popping crease.
And then there was the second Test between the Aussies and Kiwis in the WACA. Home of Dennis Lillee, plaything of Mitchell Johnson’s menace, shrine to the beacons of pace that made helmets mandatory. That was until two weeks ago, were had mercy not been taken following five drab days, the second innings might still be dragging on, on a deck that made AC/DC’s Highway to Hell seem more like a quiet country lane.
These are only recent examples, fresh in the memory as the powerbrokers of the game, most notably the MCC, have moved towards extraordinary lengths to reinvigorate the game. Whilst egg and bacon ties remain in vogue, coin tosses apparently seem as welcome as a Milli Vanilli reunion tour?
Australian cricket legend and current Western Australia head coach Justin Langer this week suggested that Test cricket disband draws and instead legislate that all matches must yield a winner. He’s in detention facing charges or heresy, although sources say he’ll be offered good behaviour if he concedes the Earth is still round…
But it was today’s scenes at the Adelaide Oval, that almost in a flash of luminous pink; shot down, point blank, all talk of Test cricket’s demise, as the largest first day crowd to an Adelaide Test match (47,441) since the infamous Bodyline series of the Sir Donald Bradman era, was drawn to the ground, like moths to a flame.
Adelaide’s ground staff didn’t disappoint either! New Zealand won the toss and elected to bat, and despite scratching to 2-80 at lunch – sorry, I mean tea – wilted in the twilight to be all out for 202.
Easy pickings for Australia? Hardly! Warner, whose plundered runs for fun in the series to date, was gone for single figures, before his opening partner Burns, played on to leave Australia two-down and playing for stumps, under the ubiquitous flush of Adelaide luminous floodlights. It was thrilling.
For the record, the Aussies will resume Day two at 2-54, with Steve Smith (24*) and Adam Voges (9*) at the crease. But with no intended disrespect to either gentleman; the crowd, viewers and cricket tragics alike, will be more interested in how this theatre of day vs night unfolds. Will the pink ball reverse swing? Will it last 80 overs? Can runs be made as easily at dusk as they are at quarter to nine at night? And can we handle that sending in a nightwatchman now holds literal application?
Something wonderfully, refreshingly and overwhelmingly significant occurred in the history of this great sport today.
Day – night Test cricket is here to stay. May it live long and prosper.