Since the inaugural day-night Test match at Adelaide in 2015, there has been a notion going around in the cricketing world that the semi-new pink ball doesn’t swing as much as its red equivalent, especially under natural light. So far, we have had four Tests with pink Kookaburra – three of which have been played in Australia and one was played in Dubai. On each occasion, the lack of sideways movement with this particular cricket ball was identified by the experts and cricketers.
However, with the pink Dukes ball making its debut in Test match cricket on English soil in the ongoing historic fixture between England and West Indies at Edgbaston, the advocates of day-night Test cricket await anxiously for a better demonstration of the pros and cons of this brand-new concept.
Traditionally, the English weather conditions are more conducive to swing bowling than any other part of the world. Though on the hindsight, bowler’s ability and skill to swing the ball, plays a key role as well. Meanwhile, a day-night Test in England is regarded as an ideal opportunity to find out whether the general conception around the lack of sideways movement of a pink ball is a myth or a reality.
Why does a pink ball tend to lose its shine early?
Replacing the traditional red cricket ball is widely seen as one of the most radical moves in the 140-year history of this purest format of the game. The manufacturers — whether it is Kookaburra or Dukes — have to go through a lot of trial and error methods to produce the ideal product which is suitable for this form of the game. But remember, we are still in the early days of this pink-ball era and there are areas where improvement is required.
Currently, there is a clear consensus amongst the cricketers, that after about 20 overs of exceptional swing, the pink Dukes ball softens and loses its shine, unlike its red counterpart — meaning it moves around less and is easier to negotiate for a batsman. Recently, on an experimental basis, the pink Dukes ball was used in a few rounds of County Championship matches and players came up with a feedback that during day-time the ball does almost nothing but under the artificial lights, it tends to move around violently.
After crawling to a 139-ball 53 in Hampshire’s recent day-night County fixture against Somerset, England all-rounder Liam Dawson said, “If you keep using these balls you’ll get some pretty boring cricket.”
So why does the shine in red ball last more than the pink one?
Well, according to the manufacturer, in the red ball melting synthetic grease is being applied onto the leather to help the bowlers, who apply sweat to smooth one side of the ball while allowing the other side to deteriorate over time as the grease wears off. The aerodynamics of the ball through the air helps it swing away from the shiny side.
However, the same can’t be applied to the pink balls because it gives the ball a darker shade, which makes it tougher to spot under lights.
Thus, once the ball loses its newness, a bowler can’t get a shine on it, resulting the lack of sideways movement with the semi-new and old ball. Even, due to this reason, it is almost impossible to extract reverse swing out of a pink cricket ball.
Meanwhile, unlike its Kookaburra counterpart, in the Dukes pink ball, six rows of hand-stitched threading are added to force together with the two sides of the leather surface. So, the seam of this particular ball is expected to be more helpful for the swing bowlers like James Anderson and Stuart Broad, who soon will be bowling with it at Edgbaston.
Is pink ball difficult to spot in twilight?
The seam of a pink-ball is stitched with black thread to make it easy to spot for a batsman, under the lights. However, some batsmen have complained that these particular balls become difficult to spot in twilight hour when floodlights are turned on. In fact, colour blind cricketers like Gary Balance or Chris Rogers may not be able to see it at all.
However, Dilip Jadojia, the head of Dukes feels visibility is hardly an issue.
“Visual was not really an issue, no-one said they couldn’t see it because it was pretty bright anyway. The way the games panned out also didn’t suggest there was too much of an issue. Some games had big scores, some had lowish scores, bowlers did well and batsmen did well – there was nothing unusual,” he told the Independent.
Well, irrespective of all these grey areas, the use of the pink ball in day-night Test cricket is the need of the hour to keep fan’s interest towards five-day cricket. The ECB so far has sold more the 70 thousand tickets for the first three days of the Edgbaston Test. So, the pink ball may be yet to work on the field, but outside it is already proving to be a successful experiment.