TELFORD VICE, Dubai
FAF du Plessis said it. Then Russell Domingo said it. Now Haroon Lorgat has said it: the quality of the lights at South African grounds isn’t good enough to stage pink-ball, day/night test cricket.
“You will recall we had used the pink ball in the inaugural season of the Africa T20 Cup (in 2015-16),” Cricket South Africa (CSA) chief executive Lorgat said.
“One of the reasons for this was to test our conditions as we were already thinking about day/night test cricket in future.
“Regrettably we found that our lights will need significant upgrade.”
That echoes the views expressed by South Africa’s captain and coach, Du Plessis and Domingo, after the third test against Australia in Adelaide – the Proteas’ first day/nighter.
Even so, the facts of that match suggest efforts will be made to play test cricket under lights in South Africa in the coming years.
The total attendance in Adelaide of 125 993 is a figure South African administrators can only dream of, and it was up from the 123 736 who saw Australia beat New Zealand in the inaugural day/night test at the same ground last November.
The 37 932 who turned up on the second day represented the biggest crowd for a day of test cricket involving South Africa in Adelaide.
A day later 35 897 came through the turnstiles – more than have attended the third day’s play at the ground in any test that has not been part of an Ashes series.
What with crowds of 10 000 on any day of a test in South Africa regarded as decent, the prospect of exponentially more bums being put on seats because of hours of play that accommodate working people will excite CSA.
But let’s not get too carried away. That the total attendance for this Adelaide test was higher than that of a year ago must be balanced against the fact that the game lasted a day more than last November’s.
So while a daily average of 41 245 streamed into Adelaide Oval last year, 31 498 did so this time.
And nearby restaurants and bars that would normally benefit when a ground empties at sunset were instead empty themselves around the dinner hour.
Moreover, the peak television audience was down by 1-million compared to last year and the average audience fell by 500 000.
Which could mean the novelty value of pink-ball, day/night tests is inflating its chances of long-term viability.
The upside is that thousands watched in person and on television despite the series having been decided before the match started, that Australia were being dominated, and that temperatures plummeted to wintry levels after dark.
If CSA had to weigh all of those factors and decide to give it a go, when and where might we see our first day/night test?
“We believe the highveld is better suited to host day/night test cricket and January or February feels like the right time of year,” Lorgat said.
But, before vast amounts are invested in improving South Africa’s floodlights, it’s worth the game asking itself: would test cricket’s core audience be comfortable with all this change?