Last Monday 26th June 2017 another piece of cricket history was made with the first round of the pink ball Day/Night County Championship matches, with play scheduled to start at 2pm and finishing at 9pm (with a cut off time of 10pm).
There were two main reasons why the ECB wanted to introduce these pink ball day/night County Championship matches:
I am a longstanding member of Essex CCC and the following is my experience and thoughts after attending Essex v Middlesex at Chelmsford.
Typical of the English summer the previous week had seen unbroken sunshine, blue skies and temperatures of 30C+ in Essex, however by the time of this game the weather was changing and becoming unsettled. The first day was played in reasonable weather, however the temperature dropped significantly in the evening, which may be the reason for some spectators leaving at the beginning of the last session.
With the game being played at the end of June, this meant a late sunset, so the floodlights only took effect during the last hour of play. During the period where the natural light fades and the floodlights begin to take effect, it was difficult for spectators to follow the pink ball, especially when a boundary shot was played along the ground across the outfield, in fact there were several occasions that I thought the fielder had prevented the boundary.
Although the Essex opening attack of Jamie Porter and Mohammed Amir (making his debut for Essex) looked dangerous the theory that the pink ball would swing during the evening sessions did not materialise and indeed the Essex spinner Simon Harmer was the danger man taking 5 wickets for 77 runs in the Middlesex first innings, with the visitors dismissed 246.
It was a good first day county championship crowd (with crowds up by around 25 to 30% from the previous home game against Warwickshire with the attendance reported at 2,200). However it was disappointing that the additional early evening after work spectators did not materialise, although it was encouraging to see more 20 to 30 year old spectators amongst the crowd (but unfortunately very few school children).
As mentioned the weather forecast was for an unsettled and cool week and despite best efforts play was abandoned on the second day at 6.50pm due to steady rain.
The third days play started on time with the floodlights on, under grey skies with drizzle in the air. It was also cold (only around 12 degrees in the evening), not exactly conducive to watching cricket, hence the smallish crowd. Amazingly we had a full day’s play (with 104 overs, to make up some lost time from the previous day). Essex enjoyed a dominant day with the bat as Alastair Cook and Nick Browne shared a record opening stand of 373 (beating the previous Essex record of 316 set in 1994) and this was followed by an entertaining quick century by Varun Chopra, putting Essex in a commanding position. This raised an interesting and surprising statistic that Cook has never scored a first-class double century for Essex, his highest score being 195 and making 193 on this occasion.
The fourth days play started with the usual rules in terms of when lunch and tea were to be taken and a minimum of 16 overs in the last hour with play finishing at 9pm. The weather was again overcast, although brighter and warmer. It was a very reasonable last day County Championship crowd, which was probably to do with a potential win for Essex and it was good to see some early evening after work spectators come into the ground with the attendance being around 1,200!
We were treated to some compelling and exciting cricket during the last session of play. Once Compton had been removed for a heroic potential match saving innings of a 120, Middlesex proceeded to collapse losing their last five wickets for ten runs, losing the match by an innings and 34 runs. Thanks largely to an unbelievable bowling performance by spinner Simon Harmer taking 9 wickets for 95 runs during the Middlesex second innings, plus some bold tactics by ‘Tendo’ the Essex captain. The Essex victory was achieved at around 8.57pm just about three minutes from close of play!
Following the game it was mooted that the pink ball becomes softer but did offer more bounce for the spin bowlers.
I consider the success (or failure) of pink ball day/night county championship matches to be inconclusive. I would like to see another round of games played next season, completed later in the summer and during the school holidays, firstly to ensure a proper day/night scenario and hopefully school children will come along. I also would like to see the county clubs encourage more spectators to come along by including some additional features such as BBQ food, live music during the intervals and youngsters taking part in All Stars cricket during the intervals plus some freebies for the youngsters from the ECB etc.
Of course good weather is essential to the success and enjoyment to any watching and playing any game of cricket. There is, as we all know, no guarantee of that in an English summer!
Written by Kevin Watts (Essex CCC Member)
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