I’m sure the powers-that-be wouldn’t have known it when they drew up this year’s schedule for the series against South Africa, but depending on how the Aussies perform in the second Test when it starts in Hobart on Saturday, the Pink Ball match in Adelaide could be a game changer.
South Africa sent shockwaves through Australia when they easily beat Steve Smith’s men in Perth, but if Australia can overcome the tourists – and the rain that’s forecast for Tasmania doesn’t ruin the game – they’ll head into a series decider at Adelaide Oval.
I have no doubt playing a Test match under lights for the first time will really challenge South Africa (many of whose players made it clear they were reluctant to pad up for the game when the match was first mooted) because they haven’t had much, if any, experience with the pink ball.
The tourists will have a heck of lot to grasp; it’s probably cricket’s answer to the old saying sink or swim.
They’ll be playing at night; there’ll be a fair bit in the wicket and no matter how you look at it, Adelaide Oval is going to be serious hard work for them.
The Aussies have at least had the benefit of playing there against New Zealand last summer, while I think all of the Aussies players have also played a few Sheffield Shield matches under the night sky with the pink ball.
While that inaugural day-night Test was considered a great success with record television audiences and massive crowds, there were also reports that the ball was hard to see and that the grassy pitch which was especially manicured for the new ball was responsible for the game finishing within three days.
I also remember how, after that game, players from both Australia and New Zealand complained about the ball, the changed conditions and the visibility of the six-stitcher.
There have been similar complaints from other teams that have played under the “new” conditions.
I was interested to read Pakistan’s fast bowler Wahab Riaz’s comments after his nation’s Pink Ball Test against the West Indies in Dubai last month.
He complained that the dew in the final session of the second day had a severe impact on the ball before adding it was hard for bowlers to find any swing into the third day (or night’s) play.
Marlon Samuels, who scored 76 in that Test, said he picked the ball up better the longer he batted.
However, he was dismissed after not being able to pick it because of Sohail Khan’s high-arm action; he also revealed it was hard to see the ball while in the field.
These are the unknowns that the South Africans have to look forward to – and contend with - when the Adelaide Test kicks off.
They’ll be finding their feet as they go and it’s because of that I have no hesitation in saying if the Aussies can win in Hobart they should be able to take out the series.
- Nathan Bracken, exclusively for Sportsta.