The first ever day/night Test match has begun and already New Zealand is in trouble against their rivals Australia. At the end of the first day Australia were 54 for 2 replying to New Zealand’s 202. This match is intended to be an experiment to determine whether this version of cricket will allow the longest form of the game to survive.
Five-day Tests are rapidly going the way of the dinosaur. The world has changed a lot since that first Test match was played on March 15, 1877 between England and Australia. Australia won that match by 45 runs to issue in a new era for the sport. Here they are again ushering an era that could possibly save the format from extinction.
Fans of the sport no longer have the time to sit around for five days to witness the ebbs and flows of Test cricket, and except for India where people are absolutely nuts about the sport, the young generation of supporters are more inclined to be fans of T20 cricket matches that last a little longer than an average baseball game in the USA and in which there is always an outcome. Tests played out over five days can sometimes peter out into a tame draw. There is very little value in waiting five days for an outcome and one doesn’t come.
Today’s sports fans are more than ever before about results and while day/night cricket doesn’t guarantee results, it does represent a start to overhauling the sport that has refused to evolve in any significant way in more than 100 years. For years now there have been discussions about shortening Test cricket to four days and making pitches that give bowlers and batsmen equal opportunity. Over the past few decades the rules of the game have made it easier for batsmen and more difficult for bowlers. What that has done is skew games towards ending in draws than ever before and that’s boring.
If Test cricket is to survive, it needs to be played at a higher tempo and there need to be an increased likelihood of a result. So maybe there needs to limits placed on the number of overs each team faces. So, instead of having teams bat for an eternity piling up ridiculous totals, maybe there needs to be a limit on the number of overs each team faces. So, Team A faces 100 overs regardless of how many wickets they lose. Then Team B bats. Team A bats again for another 100 overs and the Team B bats and tries to overcome whatever differences there are in the runs scored by Team A, that is if there is a difference.
That way there is a guaranteed result each time, the game moves along at a much faster pace and most importantly, a result is achieved within say, four days.
There are other ways in which the game can evolve to make it relevant. Such a result would also minimize the effect that weather can have on a game, hence no more ‘disappointing’ draws.
Day/night cricket is here to stay but more, much more needs to be done if Test cricket is to have any kind of future.