Michael Slater, who started Ashes series at home (1994-95) and away (2001) with a fusillade of boundaries, had just stepped out of the commentary box at the Adelaide Oval when a journalist accosted him. “How would you have played the pink ball, Michael?” he asked. Slater looked perplexed. “No idea, mate,” he said. ‘The same way I played the red ball?”
NZ players field under lights in Adelaide yesterday. Pic/Getty Images
Away from it all, Andrew Flintoff found the near-forensic discussions about the ball and its qualities rather pointless. “Is it me or is all this pink ball chat boring, change the record lads!! Hit it, bowl it, catch it and throw it, job done!!” he tweeted. He had a point too. Australia didn’t dominate the opening day of the first day-night Test because of the pink ball, but because they paid greater attention to cricket basics.
On a true Adelaide surface — pre-match speculation about a grassy, seam-friendly pitch proved way off the mark – eight New Zealanders got into double figures. Only Tom Latham made a half-century, and even he didn’t carry on. As well as Australia bowled in partnerships, with Peter Siddle and Nathan Lyon outstanding when it came to choking off runs for the prolific Kane Williamson, New Zealand’s slump to 202 all out was largely self-inflicted.
For the crowd, which had started streaming in around noon, this was definitely a day to remember. Phillip Hughes’ family had requested that there be no minute’s silence in his memory, and the only overt reference to his death anniversary came in the shape of the black armbands worn by the players on both teams.
At 4:08 (408 was the number on Hughes’ baggy green cap), soon after the players had gone off the field for the tea break, the giant screen played a three-minute tribute to the fallen hero. Thousands, who would otherwise have rushed to refuel on pints of lager and ale, stayed on in the stands to watch silently before sustained applause when the video ended with a picture of Hughes against a black background that had the words: Remembering 408.
After that, it was back to on-field action, with Australia thoroughly dominating the middle session. Mitchell Starc, who later limped off with a stress fracture in his right foot, took out Williamson, Brendon McCullum and Mitchell Santner as New Zealand failed to find a partnership of substance.
Several of the fears about the pink ball also proved unfounded. It retained colour well, and was easy enough to spot even from the press box 100 yards away. “It didn’t swing as much early on,” said Peter Siddle, who took his 200th Test wicket. “But there was enough lateral movement.”
Most important of all, though, 47,441 streamed through the turnstiles, not far short of the record (50,962) set during the Bodyline series in 1933. And after a depressingly mundane Test in Perth, where only 28 wickets fell in five days, they got to witness an incident-packed day – 256 runs and 12 wickets. It could be the first of many Test-match days under lights, with a pink ball that’s here to stay.