Batsmen improving but third session still a lottery in day-night Tests

“The game of cricket is about watching the seam and seeing what position the bowlers are putting it in. I think when you are batting under lights, that becomes a lot more difficult and you can’t really, or I definitely can’t, see the seam as much as during the day,” Taylor said.

“From my point of view, the game of cricket is about seeing the ball as clear as possible and see what the seam is doing. Just at night time with the pink ball at the moment, is just a little bit more difficult than during the day.”

That teams are so desperate to take the new ball at twilight or at night can either be seen as adding to the tactical battle or potentially turning the earlier sessions into a bore fest. The Australians almost had a go-slow policy while batting in their first innings on day two when they successfully ensured the tourists began batting after the second break. And on Sunday their plan was to bat as long as possible, thus avoiding bowling in the peak of 40C temperatures but also to take the new ball as close as possible to the third session.

Ultimately, it did not matter when the tourists batted, for this time they collapsed under a boiling sun.

Australian opener Joe Burns said the difficulty of batting under lights in Perth was not as great as Adelaide nor Brisbane. Regardless, the home side’s tactics clearly indicated there was a benefit to bowling late in the day.

“I think it is one of those things, the more you expose yourself to anything, the easier it becomes. You are really clear with how you want to play it,” Burns said.

“I don’t think here the night session necessarily becomes that much harder from a visibility or swing perspective. I think we have seen swing consistently through the entire game.

“I think it’s more the wickets where you get dew on the surface, Adelaide and Brisbane, you certainly find the wicket quickens up. I don’t think this wicket quickened up under lights. Maybe there is an adjustment period for batsmen. We are starting to play enough pink-ball cricket that we have been exposed to it a few times.”

While there was plenty of on-field action under lights for those on hand and at home, it was curious to note that it wasn’t always in the final session in Perth when Channel Seven and Fox Cricket enjoyed their best ratings.

The second session on Saturday, beginning at 6.40pm in Sydney and Melbourne, was when Seven enjoyed an average national audience of more than 1 million, this slipping to 880,000 later in the night, according to Mediaweek. Fox’s best ratings (244,000) were also during the second session on that day, slipping to 204,000 in a night session that finished after 11pm on the east coast. However, on Friday, when the Black Caps collapsed, it was the third session that had the best ratings for both networks.

That Seven and Fox were happy with the ratings has given the Western Australian Cricket Association greater hope of hosting a Test against India next summer. Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide appear locked in, leaving Brisbane and Perth jockeying for the one Test.

The players want to start the campaign at their Gabba fortress where they have not lost a Test in three decades, but other factors are also at play – including attendances.

The crowd total for this summer’s opener against Pakistan in Brisbane – albeit a day-only clash – was a modest 45,891. Only 4825 turned up on the Sunday – the fourth and final day – a figure labelled an “absolute disgrace” by former Test opener Ed Cowan.  By comparison, the Perth Test had a total attendance of 65,540, with 9334 on Sunday as Australia completed a 296-run win to claim a 1-0 series lead.

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