Extra grass may be left on the Adelaide Oval pitch in an attempt to help preserve the condition of the experimental pink ball in this week’s Sheffield Shield “rehearsal” between South Australia and New South Wales, to be played in front of a host of key observers.
ESPNcricinfo understands that the oval’s ground staff will be encouraged to leave more grass on the surface than they otherwise would, in order to avoid the sort of abrasive conditions that played havoc with the ball during the Prime Minister’s XI match in Canberra. Should the gambit prove successful, a similar strip can be expected for the third Test of the Trans-Tasman series between Australia and New Zealand.
Such a surface may offer more early assistance to pace bowlers than might have otherwise been the case, while also affecting the drop-in pitch’s capacity to deteriorate and take spin later on in the game. However the prospect of the pink ball not being able to last the distance in a Test match is considered the greater concern.
Ground and pitch conditions have been shown to be critical to the way the ball behaves, as demonstrated by the contrast between Manuka and the more lush surrounds in which the New Zealand tourists used the ball during their recent practice sessions in Hamilton. The touring wicketkeeper BJ Watling said the ball held up far better in New Zealand conditions than those seen in Australia’s capital.
“We had a good couple of days in Hamilton where it was quite lush and the ball held up alright there,” Watling said in Sydney. “It didn’t rip up like it did in Canberra, so there’s going to be different situations and we’re going to have to deal with whatever happens.”
Representatives from Cricket Australia and the Australian Cricketers Association, plus production crew from Channel Nine, will all be in Adelaide watching how things progress and preparing for the Test match to be played at the same ground in a month’s time. They will be as interested in proceedings as the players themselves, many of whom have never played a game with a pink ball.
Like Australia’s captain Steven Smith, the deputy David Warner will be making his pink ball debut in Adelaide, at the same time as he seeks to prove his fitness for the first Test of the series at the Gabba after being out for two months with a thumb fracture. Warner said he was getting into the headspace of being prepared for anything come Wednesday and wanted to be able to bat under lights.
“I haven’t played with it yet,” he said. “We’ll have to wait and see when I get to bat, hopefully I can bat under lights and see what it’s actually like. I’m excited about it and I think so should everyone else be.
“In general it doesn’t matter what ball you play with, if you’re preparing for a game, any time you play whether it be 50 overs or four-day form, you’re still in your own mind of trying to score runs and build an innings. It’s irrelevant what ball you use, you need to gain time to get up and ready for a Test match.
“We play one-day cricket and we play red-ball cricket, you throw a pink ball in there, it’s all the same game. Yeah it’s day-night, we’ve played day-night with a white ball, but the game is cricket, we have to play how we know. If there is a little bit of uncertainty about being able to see that ball, I’m sure the issues will be raised afterwards.”
As for his not-quite-healed thumb, Warner said he was prepared to play through pain to take his place as one of only a handful of senior players left in the Australian Test side. “I think I got hit against India in Brisbane on the same thumb last season as well and the pain is always going to be there,” Warner said. “It is about me getting through that pain. You speak to any wicketkeeper in the world – they are playing with broken fingers so I am not complaining at all. Unless I cop another one on the thumb while I am practising or batting out in the middle, that is the only thing that will hinder my selection for the first Test.
“Two weeks ago the doctor said to me come three or four days before the first Test it should be completely healing. You are never worried about getting hit, the thing about cricket is you always have to go in there with a positive frame of mind.”
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig
ESPN Sports Media Ltd.