ECB HAPPY TO BE LEFT IN THE PINK

The Cricket Paper - - OPINION - PETER HAYTER

THE real proof of the pink ball was al­ways go­ing to come in the twi­light zone, but a few ob­ser­va­tions on how it be­haved in the ear­lier part of the first Test of its type staged in Eng­land sug­gested few prob­lems see­ing it and play­ing with it in day­light at least.

Alas­tair Cook had no difficulty with the first de­liv­ery, from Ke­mar Roach, push­ing it into the cov­ers for a sin­gle.

The next did ap­pear to slip out of the grasp of the bowler, as it started wide and swung wider still be­fore end­ing up smack­ing into the hands of Kraigg Brath­waite at se­cond slip, send­ing him from the field for treat­ment.

But debu­tant Mark Stone­man picked up his first le­gal de­liv­ery well enough to smack it for four through the cov­ers and, two balls later he clipped one be­hind square leg for an­other bound­ary.

Any ini­tial thoughts he might not have seen much of the ball with which Roach bowled him all ends up were dis­pelled by re­plays that showed it swing­ing in to the left-han­der then nip­ping away off the seam to take off-stump. He could have watched it ten times and it would have got him ev­ery time.

In con­trast, broad­cast­ers were, by now, re­ceiv­ing com­plaints from some that they were find­ing it hard to fol­low the ball’s flight, and mes­sages via so­cial media sug­gested spec­ta­tors were hav­ing trou­ble pick­ing up the pink ’un from side on. This didn’t seem to de­ter those dressed as the ‘Cool Run­nings’ Ja­maican bob­sleigh team, how­ever, nor the Key­stone Cops and rob­bers run­ning up and down the Eric Hol­lies Stand. Not that they were watch­ing, any­way.

In­deed, once ev­ery­one had their eye in, the only man in the ground who seemed to have any trou­ble was um­pire Marais Eras­mus, who some­how failed to spot that the ball from Miguel Cum­mins to which he ini­tially gave Tom West­ley not out lbw would have hit mid­dle and leg stumps half-way up.

As the ball soft­ened and Cook and Joe Root cashed in on the best con­di­tions for bat­ting, the ECB, whose idea it was to test out the for­mat, seemed ever more con­tent with the ex­per­i­ment thus far. Why wouldn’t they be, with pre-sales of 70,000 tick­ets and up to half of that num­ber new to Test cricket at this ground?

What part in that suc­cess was played by a ma­jor tar­geted mar­ket­ing cam­paign in the city cen­tre; what part by a sen­si­ble pric­ing pol­icy that meant the most any­one would pay for a seat was the least one would pay for an Ashes ticket, and what part by the lure of the shiny new­ness of the prod­uct re­mains to be seen.

Some, in­clud­ing the for­mer Eng­land skip­per Michael Vaughan have gone so far as to claim pink-ball cricket un­der lights could save Test cricket.

In other coun­tries it might and is well worth pur­su­ing. Here, when the sun set last night at 8.29pm, leav­ing about 20 min­utes of real darkness be­fore the close, hard to see.

Hap­pily for the play­ers, that could not be said of the ball it­self.

PIC­TURE: Getty Im­ages

Whole new ball game: West Indies cap­tain Jason Holder, left, and Miguel Cum­mins with the pink ball

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