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Cricket Australia chief says day-night Ashes tests on agenda

Melbourne: Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland wants players to remain open-minded about day-night test matches during the 2017-18 Ashes series in Australia. Sutherland said he respected the concern of Australia captain Steve Smith and others, but reiterated that a pink-ball Ashes test would be a "natural progression."

James Sutherland. Pic/ AFP
James Sutherland. Pic/ AFP

Australia hosted the first day-night test at the Adelaide Oval last year, beating New Zealand in a low-scoring match. The venue will host another day-night test in November, after South African players ended weeks of debate by agreeing Wednesday to be involved. Today, Sutherland said day-night tests will allow for bigger audiences at the matches and on television and predicted there'd be "somewhere between zero and two" day-night tests during the next Ashes series.

He spoke after Smith, playing in the West Indies in a limited-overs tri-series, said the Ashes "works pretty well with the red (regular) ball ... playing against England, we always get the viewers and the crowds out, so I don't think there is any issue there."

England captain Alastair Cook has also indicated he'd like the 2017-18 Ashes series to be all traditional day matches. Dates haven't been announced for that series. The Adelaide day-night test last year was completed in three days, but drew 124,000 spectators and television ratings were also favorable.

"I think there's a natural progression for us to get to a stage where Ashes test matches are played as day-night games," Sutherland said. "The players are clearly an important stakeholder and I respect the views of Steven and Alastair in saying that. The Ashes is a great contest, and (it) will no doubt attract huge audiences both at the ground and on television.

"But I think the facts of the matter are that by playing a day-night test match you're actually going to get bigger audiences at the game and on television. It even time-shifts games into a more appealing time of day in the U.K. That's another factor we need to consider." Australia will host three tests against South Africa in November, with the series concluding in Adelaide from Nov. 24, and will kick off a three-test series against Pakistan with a day-night match in Brisbane starting Dec. 15.

South African players had been reluctant to play the Adelaide test after informal feedback from Australian players who had issues with the pink ball's visibility and durability in the Adelaide test. Cricket South Africa chief executive Haroon Lorgat said the Proteas were initially hesitant to play a key test match without previous experience and adequate preparation.

"But after working through all their concerns and possible options to prepare sufficiently, there is newfound excitement for this novel test match," Lorgat said. "Our players deserve credit for the way they have worked through the issues which were clearly not insignificant."

Referring to the South Africa announcement, Smith said he hoped for better visibility with the pink ball in the Adelaide match this year. "As long as we keep continuing to improve the ball," the balance between bat and ball will improve, he said.

"The seam was pretty hard to see last year -- they've made it a black seam now, they've changed that up. Hopefully it's a bit easier to see. As long as we can continue to improve the ball, I think it's going to be a great form of cricket."

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