TELFORD VICE, Melbourne
PINK is a pop star, something that’s good to be in, and what strawberry ice-cream looks like. It is also the colour of the balls that will be used in the third test between Australia and South Africa in Adelaide on Thursday.
This is old hat to the Australians, who played – and won – the inaugural pink-ball, day/night test against New Zealand in Adelaide last November.
But Thursday’s match will be South Africa’s first under the new conditions, and they have tried to prepare for it as best they can in two games on tour.
“The ball has a gloomy feel to it, and I’m not sure what causes that,” JP Duminy said after the second of those matches, against a Victoria XI at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Saturday.
“The weirdest thing is that when it’s completely dark it’s easier (to see the ball).
“I guess you’ve just got to fight through that (twilight) phase. It’s something we need to be wary of.
“In that phase it becomes more challenging in certain positions in the field. But it’s all about preparation – how much time you can spend in that light catching balls, bowling balls and batting.”
What caused those challenges?
“I wish I could answer that,” Duminy said. “It’s just a difference that you see. I can’t give you the scientific reason.”
Duminy isn’t alone in his uncertainty about the pink ball – which is said to deteriorate faster than the red, has a seam that is less visible to batsmen, and is difficult to see during the transition from natural to artificial light.
So much so that the South Africans had to be persuaded to agree to a day/night test when the idea was mooted in April.
What, the argument went, if the series was level going into the last match? Should the game that could decide the rubber be in danger of degenerating into a lottery?
Happily, then, the series is not riding on the result in Adelaide – South Africa settled the issue at the earliest opportunity with victories Perth and Hobart.
“We’re probably sitting in the pound seats in terms of the concerns that were around the pink-ball test,” Duminy said.
“(That the series has been decided) does put a different dimension on it, but it doesn’t change the way we want to prepare and the way we want to stay determined and hungry for success in that game.”
Left-arm wrist spinner Tabraiz Shamsi might be hungrier than most having spent the first two tests on the bench.
He showed that by taking 4/72 on Saturday, adding weight to the theory that he could make his debut in Adelaide in place of Vernon Philander, who was left out of Saturday’s game because he was feeling pain in his right elbow caused by his mid-pitch collision with Steve Smith in Hobart.
The Australians answered some of the questions swirling around the state of their game on Sunday when they axed five of those involved in the Hobart horror and named four uncapped players in their squad of 12 for Adelaide.
Opening batsman Joe Burns, middle order men Adam Voges and Callum Ferguson, wicketkeeper Peter Nevill and fast bowler Joe Mennie were all tossed onto the scrapheap, while Matthew Renshaw, Peter Handscomb, Nic Maddinson and Chadd Sayers will all hope to earn their first test cap on Thursday.
All except Sayers, who is a fast bowler, are batsmen – an indication of the selectors’ attempts to eradicate the batting collapses that have become a feature of Australia’s play.
Perhaps the most surprising pick is the return of wicketkeeper Matthew Wade, who is considered a better batsman than Nevill but not as good behind the stumps.
“Matthew has worked extremely hard on his ’keeping in the past few seasons and we consider it to have improved substantially,” interim selection chief Trevor Hohns said.
“He is also a very valuable player with the bat and will add to the depth in our batting order.”
Australia squad: Steve Smith (captain), Jackson Bird, Peter Handscomb, Josh Hazlewood, Usman Khawaja, Nic Maddinson, Nathan Lyon, Matt Renshaw, Chadd Sayers, Mitchell Starc, Matthew Wade, David Warner.