Morne Morkel reopened the debate about conditions under floodlights with a devastating spell of fast bowling as South Africa took command on the first day of a four-day, day-night Test against Zimbabwe at St George’s Park on Tuesday.
Aiden Markram hit 125, his second century in three Test matches, as South Africa made 309 for nine declared.
It looked a match-winning total after Morkel ripped out the first three batsmen to leave Zimbabwe reeling on 30 for four. Morkel took three for 20.
Both Markram and Zimbabwe captain Graeme Cremer said there was a marked difference in conditions for batsmen against the pink ball under lights.
“From twilight onwards it does tend to move around quite a bit, definitely more than this morning,” said Markram, who was dismissed with what proved to be the last ball before the dinner break.
With South Africa losing five wickets for 58 runs after dinner, a total of nine wickets fell for 88 runs in a two-and-a-half hour floodlit session.
Markram gave credit to Zimbabwe for the way they bowled in the evening but admitted: “Maybe it was a blessing in disguise the way it worked out because it’s pretty difficult to bat under lights on that wicket.”
Cremer said he was not too disappointed with his team’s performance.
“Obviously I’m disappointed with the score but there were a lot of good balls out there. It’s tough to bat under lights against that attack. I’m sure most teams would have been in that position the way the ball moved around.”
Cremer added: “Even when we bowled, something started happening once the sun went down and the lights came on.”
With South Africa declaring with more than an hour remaining on the first day, Markram said it could become a trend.
“There are going to be tactics around declarations with regards to batting under lights.”
Cremer agreed. “Declaring will play a big part in day-night Tests. Every seam attack will want to bowl at night.”
Cremer said Zimbabwe’s immediate objective was to avoid having the follow-on, which in a four-day Test is 150 runs.
“We will try to make the most of daytime batting so we can bowl at them under lights,” he said.