ECB HAPPY TO BE LEFT IN THE PINK
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.
Whole new ball game: West Indies captain Jason Holder, left, and Miguel Cummins with the pink ball