At the center of all the buildup, “new” seems to be buzzword ahead of India’s Test series against Australia starting in Adelaide on Thursday.
Virat Kohli said he represents ‘New India’. It is new that India have named their playing XI a day before the Test but Australia, a team that could be called the pioneer of this habit, have not. It is new that India have a settled build-up to a Test series Down Under while the hosts have been facing one headache after another. It is a new chapter in the rivalry between two sides, because this has not been (so far) about confrontations, and some have dubbed it the Friendship Series.
And when the action begins on Thursday at the Adelaide Oval, it will be an altogether new experience for India: playing a Test match away from home with the pink-ball.
(Note: Scroll sideways on the tables below to view all columns)
Australia played the first ever pink-ball Test match back in 2015 and have been at the forefront of day-night games ever since. Of course, all their matches have been at home so far, but the Aussies have a 100% win record with pink-ball. Interestingly too, no men’s day-night Test match has ended up in a draw till date.
|Team||Matches||Won||Lost||Draw / Tie|
In Australia, three venues have hosted day-night games but Adelaide is the most common. In the four matches at the Adelaide Oval, only England opted to field in 2017. The rest of the times, the teams winning the toss have opted to bat first. Not that it has made a difference to the result so far.
While the opening match turned out to be a thriller of sorts, only in 2016, against an Asad Shafiq-inspired Pakistan, did Australia look close to losing a match under lights.
Fair to say, the challenge facing India (playing only their second pink-ball Test) is enormous.
Day-night Test matches in Australia
|AUS vs NZ||Australia won||3 wickets||NZ opted to bat||Adelaide||27 Nov 2015|
|AUS vs SA||Australia won||7 wickets||SA opted to bat||Adelaide||24 Nov 2016|
|AUS vs PAK||Australia won||39 runs||AUS opted to bat||Brisbane||15 Dec 2016|
|AUS vs ENG||Australia won||120 runs||ENG opted to field||Adelaide||2 Dec 2017|
|AUS vs SL||Australia won||inns & 40 runs||SL opted to bat||Brisbane||24 Jan 2019|
|AUS vs PAK||Australia won||inns & 48 runs||AUS opted to bat||Adelaide||29 Nov 2019|
|AUS vs NZ||Australia won||296 runs||AUS opted to bat||Perth||12 Dec 2019|
In the first innings of a Test match at Adelaide Oval, there is not a huge difference in the last 10 years when it comes to the average number of runs scored per wicket. The team winning the toss is highly likely to bat first, so as to try and avoid exposing the top order from playing under the lights. It is in the second and third innings that the difference in average is most prominent, as batting gets trickier when the game progresses and pacers dictate terms.
Averages at Adelaide Oval
|Avg runs per wkt (D/N)||Avg runs per wkt overall||Avg runs per wkt since 2010|
|1st match innings||49.73||40.52||50.93|
|2nd match innings||28.40||36.06||34.38|
|3rd match innings||20.87||33.41||28.41|
|4th match innings||27.35||30.39||28.14|
Of course, Australian batsmen dominate the scoring charts too, given how often they have been a part of these matches.
Centuries in day-night Tests in Australia
High-scores in day-night Tests in Australia
|Player||Innings played||Highest score|
|DA Warner (AUS)||11||335*|
|M Labuschagne (AUS)||4||162|
|UT Khawaja (AUS)||7||145|
|Asad Shafiq (PAK)||4||137|
|SPD Smith (AUS)||11||130|
|SE Marsh (AUS)||4||126*|
|F du Plessis (SA)||2||118*|
|Yasir Shah (PAK)||4||113|
|PSP Handscomb (AUS)||6||105|
|SC Cook (SA)||2||104|
There are so many theories about why and when the red-ball swings in Test cricket, and there is no clear consensus about it, even though that particular element has been around in the game for such a long time. So, of course, the behaviour of the pink ball is not exactly clear to many in the game, whether they are players or observers.
There is one thing that has been constantly mentioned though: the ball does zip around more for the pacers, under lights in the twilight period.
“You can have some sessions under the lights where the balls just zip around. After dinner, when the light takes effect, just for whatever reason it seems like the ball zips around a bit more,” Pat Cummins said.
“You can have some periods in a Test match a bit like a one-dayer, where the ball doesn’t swing, doesn’t seam and all of a sudden out of nowhere, it starts zipping around under the lights. It’s just another dynamic of the game. It’s a tactic that the captains have to manage — when to bat and when to bowl,” Cummins added.
Ajinkya Rahane, on the other hand, spoke about the increase in speed off the pitch.
“I feel in the day, the new pink ball slightly moves, but then after that it becomes easy to bat...when the twilight period comes, for 40-50 minutes, that becomes a bit challenging for the batsmen to focus,” he said.
“The ball’s pace increases, initially there is normal pace, but when lights are on and the twilight period starts, the pace increases off the wicket (surface). In case of red ball, when we play throughout the day, the pace does not change suddenly, but with the pink ball, within 40-50 minutes, pace changes completely. It is very important to make adjustments there,” Rahane added.
Either way, it is clear that the bowlers role becomes a bit different and more interesting with the pink ball. It is almost a role reversal of sorts, where they have to be a bit conservative in the first couple of sessions on a fresh day before going for the jugular in the final session.
And, while Nathan Lyon has phenomenal numbers in these pink-ball matches in Australia, it is the pacers who have invariably dominated.
“Fast bowlers have taken 101 wickets at 26.76 in Adelaide, while spinners have gone at 49.83 for their 24 wickets. Pink-ball cricket in general, regardless of venue, has been skewed in favour of fast bowlers,” according to ESPNCricinfo.
Leading the pack is Mitchell Starc, with more wickets than anyone else in these matches. His 42 wickets have come at a superb strike rate of 35.6. And while there has been plenty of talk about Nathan Lyon’s effectiveness, he has the worst strike rate among all bowlers to have taken at least five wickets in the pink-ball games.
Bowling strike rates with pink-ball in AUS
|TA Boult (NZ)||2||7||5/60||28.2||1|
|RAS Lakmal (SL)||1||5||5/75||32.4||1|
|JA Richardson (AUS)||2||5||3/26||32.4||0|
|MA Starc (AUS)||13||42||6/66||35.6||3|
|Wahab Riaz (PAK)||2||5||4/89||39.6||0|
|PJ Cummins (AUS)||8||19||6/23||43.2||1|
|Mohammad Amir (PAK)||2||5||4/97||46.8||0|
|JR Hazlewood (AUS)||11||26||6/70||49.5||1|
|TG Southee (NZ)||4||10||5/69||50.7||1|
|N Wagner (NZ)||2||7||4/92||51.4||0|
|CR Woakes (ENG)||2||5||4/36||51.6||0|
|JM Anderson (ENG)||2||6||5/43||53||1|
|JM Bird (AUS)||4||9||3/23||54||0|
|NM Lyon (AUS)||14||28||5/69||55.4||1|
Indeed, everyone apart from Australia have significantly poorer strike rates with spin than pace in these day-night matches and the challenge for R Ashwin will be to come close to being as effective as Lyon has been, despite these numbers.
Bowling SR in Australia day-night Test matches
|Team||Matches||Overall bowling SR||Pace bowlers SR||Spin bowlers SR|
Clearly, Australia’s experience in the pink-ball games is a significant factor for the series opener in Adelaide and Starc would be raring to lead the bowling attack once again. But India must take solace from the numbers for the pace bowlers in these games historically and hope that Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav can deliver for their side.
The onus, and pressure, is on the batting line-ups.
Statistics: ESPNCricinfo Statsguru / Scroll.in research