daynight Test

Extreme Ashes rivalry exposed

A deep roar rumbles around the Gabba. Summer has arrived. England are here.

Thousands of eager fans will pour up Brisbane’s Vulture Street toward the Gabba on Thursday morning for the first Ashes Test. Sweaty from the moist morning heat, the punters will gather in bars around the ground and resume endless predictions and debates about what will unfold throughout the series.

At this point, opposing fans might as well be different species. You only have to explore the comments on popular cricket pages to see the extremity inspired by the Ashes rivalry.

Some fans are certain of their opponent’s flaws and equally sure of their own nation’s superiority in every measure, but they’ve all imagined losing the Ashes and it is a catastrophic thought.

On the first morning in Brisbane, ice cold amber liquid flows from frosty taps and the pubs roar with arguments, laughter and reflections on past series.

Fans share their confidence, optimism and insecurity.

Inside the ground the GABBA’s smooth and shiny pitch lay uncovered, absorbing the morning’s sparkling sun. Its lightening fast surface awaits the anxious players, who in turn hear the rising chorus from outside the ground.

The toss of the coin approaches. It’s time to go in.

The first morning in Brisbane is a cultural icon. Cut into the late Australian spring, it signals the shift to summer’s bush fires, hail storms, cyclones and Test cricket.

Brisbane’s cricket ground is a graveyard for visiting teams. Australia haven’t lost a Test Match there since 1988. Twenty eight consecutive matches have passed without defeat.

It’s the GABBATOIR and by late-afternoon on the first day, it will be a cauldron of fire.

Lubricated by thousands of litres beer, the outer will be rocking. Especially if English wickets are falling at the hands of Australia’s formidable fast bowling attack.

Equally possible is the prospect of tumbling Australian wickets. Batting collapses are now as frequent as Steve Smith hundreds. Warner’s runs are vital but if Smith has a bad series, Australia will struggle.

Same for England. If Root fails, who gets runs?

England’s all time leading Test run scorer, Alistair Cook, has a big job. He must occupy the crease for long periods, protect the softish middle order and force Australia’s injury prone fast bowlers to toil away for long spells.

On the whole, this is a contest between two relatively ordinary sides. That will be good for neutral spectators. It might be low quality, but highly unpredictable and entertaining.

With Root, Cook, Stuart Broad and England’s all time leading wicket taker, Jimmy Anderson, the touring side has proven quality. But it’s the last tour for three of that four. Can they rise again?

If Ben Stokes does indeed join Moeen Ali in the middle order at some point this series, England’s spine would look tougher than Australia’s.

Have the Australian selectors got it right with Shaun Marsh and Tim Paine? Will Usman Khawaja and Peter Handscomb deliver?

Runs at the death will be invaluable. Whose tail will wag the most?

It could be a tight series. We haven’t had one Australia for decades.

From here. Both sides can win. Lower scores and dramatic fourth innings run chases will feature and the victor shall be the side with the greatest resilience to withstand frantic periods of intense battle.

Australia 3-2?

Pink Ball Cricket: a bright, floodlit future

The first ever day-night Test match featuring the controversial pink ball is weeks away.

Will the pink grapefruit be as good as the red cherry?

Well, pinky doesn’t last eighty overs for a start. DRS can’t track it consistently and batsmen struggle to pick up the seam.

The pink Kookaburra ball performed terribly at a recent tour match between New Zealand and the PM’s XI in Canberra. An abrasive Manuka Oval wicket was blamed when the ball had to be changed twice.

These are serious and unresolved problems weeks out from a Test Match.

Speculation rages that CA might even change the Test back to a daytime event, but that is not possible when you consider what is at stake.

Millions of dollars have been poured into this event and the cricket world is watching. The enemies of Test cricket (yes they exist) would pounce should this fail.

The Sheffield Shield matches provide an opportunity for limited refinement. All three first round matches are day-night pink ball events. A grassy Adelaide Oval wicket has been prepared for the clash between NSW and South Australia to reduce scuffing of the pink ball. That is not sustainable.

A litany of keen observers will be at this match, considered a dress rehearsal for one of cricket’s biggest modern moments.

Why pink?

Red balls are difficult to see at night. That’s why we use white balls in one day cricket. White isn’t suitable for long form cricket because it gets dirty quickly and also becomes hard to see. More importantly, white balls don’t last eighty overs, the minimum life requisite for Test cricket balls. But apparently neither do pink ones so um… yeah.

The debates and trials of alternate coloured balls have been raging for at least ten years. Surely by now there is a compound or a combination of materials that can replicate the behaviour and ageing characteristics of a traditional cricket ball?

This ball was bowled to NSW by SA in a Shield Match in Adelaide... on a grassy wicket.

This ball was bowled to NSW by SA in a Shield Match in Adelaide… on a grassy wicket.

The day-night show must go on

Cricket Froth believes that day-night Test matches are a positive step and the Adelaide Test must proceed as planned. The ball should be ready by now but can be improved or the colour changed if it isn’t yet perfect.

As a marketing event it fosters new interest and for the purists; the tactical effect of the different playing times and conditions will be most interesting. There may be better times to bat or bowl as dusk, night time and dew environs and a switched lunch and tea break take effect.

Test cricket should have a bright, floodlit future.