Pink ball Test matches, despite being a recent phenomenon, are now becoming increasingly popular and a staple diet when it comes to consuming Test cricket. So what is a pink ball Test and why is it so famous?
A pink ball Test is basically a Day-night test match. In a world of ODIs and T20Is, you might be tempted to think that it is very common. However, despite its 145-year-old existence the concept of Day-night test cricket only started to float at the turn of the century. Research was conducted on whether Day-night Tests would be feasible in order to boost the popularity of the dying format, and thus, Pink ball Tests were born.
The International Cricket Council (ICC) approved the idea and in November 2015, Australia and New Zealand played the first day-night Test in the history of cricket. The Australian team had won the match by 3 wickets and had become the first team to win a match with a pink ball.
Pink ball Test: All Matches
|No.||Date||Home team||Away team||Venue||Result|
|1||27 November–1 December 2015||Australia||New Zealand||Adelaide Oval, Adelaide||Australia won by 3 wickets|
|2||13–17 October 2016||Pakistan||West Indies||Dubai International Cricket Stadium, Dubai||Pakistan won by 56 runs|
|3||24–28 November 2016||Australia||South Africa||Adelaide Oval, Adelaide||Australia won by 7 wickets|
|4||15–19 December 2016||Australia||Pakistan||The Gabba, Brisbane||Australia won by 39 runs|
|5||17–21 August 2017||England||West Indies||Edgbaston Cricket Ground, Birmingham||England won by an innings and 209 runs|
|6||6–10 October 2017||Pakistan||Sri Lanka||Dubai International Cricket Stadium, Dubai||Sri Lanka won by 68 runs|
|7||2–6 December 2017||Australia||England||Adelaide Oval, Adelaide||Australia won by 120 runs|
|8||26–29 December 2017||South Africa||Zimbabwe||St George’s Park, Port Elizabeth||South Africa won by an innings and 120 runs|
|9||22–26 March 2018||New Zealand||England||Eden Park, Auckland||New Zealand won by an innings and 49 runs|
|10||23–27 June 2018||West Indies||Sri Lanka||Kensington Oval, Bridgetown||Sri Lanka won by 4 wickets|
|11||24–28 January 2019||Australia||Sri Lanka||The Gabba, Brisbane||Australia won by an innings and 40 runs|
|12||22–26 November 2019||India||Bangladesh||Eden Gardens, Kolkata||India won by an innings and 46 runs|
|13||29 November–3 December 2019||Australia||Pakistan||Adelaide Oval, Adelaide||Australia won by an innings and 48 runs|
|14||12–16 December 2019||Australia||New Zealand||Perth Stadium, Perth||Australia won by 296 runs|
|15||17–21 December 2020||Australia||India||Adelaide Oval, Adelaide||Australia won by 8 wickets|
|16||24–28 February 2021||India||England||Narendra Modi Stadium, Ahmedabad||India won by 10 wickets|
|17||16–20 December 2021||Australia||England||Adelaide Oval, Adelaide||Australia won by 275 runs|
|18||14–18 January 2022||Australia||England||Bellerive Oval, Hobart||Australia won by 146 runs|
|19||12–16 March 2022||India||Sri Lanka||M. Chinnaswamy Stadium, Bangalore||India won by 238 runs|
Pink ball Test: Why is it called so?
The answer is simple. Unlike the red ball or the white ball which is used in Test cricket and limited-overs cricket respectively, the idea of playing day-night Test matches presented several challenges in terms of seam movement, wearing and tearing, strength and shine, and most importantly, visibility.
Ball makers tried using colours like optic yellow and bright orange in order to manufacture a ball suitable for day-night matches. Although these balls were easy to spot in the grass as well as by fielders taking high catches, they presented significant challenges to batsmen.
Batsmen found it difficult to segregate these balls and their colours from the brownish patches on the pitch. Reputed ball maker Kookaburra also had the idea of installing a dark green seam on the ball. However, they had to switch to white, and eventually to black after the former Australian captain, Steve Smith, suggested that the seam needed to be more visible on the ball.
Thus, the ball makers eventually settled on the colour pink for the ball as it would provide enough visibility to both batsmen and fielders during the night and would also not be prone to extreme wear and tear. Therefore, because of the colour of the ball, these Test matches came to be known as Pink ball Tests.
Smith had also led in the very first pink-ball Test in history against New Zealand.
The origin of the Pink ball Tests
This particular idea, of stretching a Test match into the evening instead of the usual day-noon affair, started floating about in the late 2000s. There was a concern from the ICC about declining interest and viewership for Test matches.
One argument suggested that more people followed ODIs and T20Is because they attracted more numbers to the ground and in front of TVs during the evening when people would have free time on their hands. Therefore, the same might work for conventional Test matches as well. Day-night Test matches also allowed a considerable part of the game to be aired at primetime and therefore, receive more news and media coverage.
The other side of the argument was also that day-night Test matches would produce more results than their counterparts which would heighten the dramatic tension of matches.
Therefore, research began pouring in on the idea of how day-night Test matches would work. The ball would be the first thing that would need to be changed as red balls might prove to be difficult to spot under the floodlights. Besides experiments with yellow and orange balls, there was even a suggestion to play with an enhanced white ball that would last 80 overs before they eventually found consensus in pink balls.
The first-ever pink-ball Test match was played in Adelaide in November 2015. The contest proved to be a low-scoring thriller with Australia defeating New Zealand by three wickets on day three to secure an important win in the Trans-Tasman Trophy. The event proved to be a massive success and the rest, as they say, is history!
Pink ball vs Red ball: The differences
Well, fundamentally speaking, as far as making from scratch is concerned, there aren’t many differences. All cricket balls are made from cork, rubber, and woollen yarn, and similar production techniques are used to manufacture these balls. What differentiates the colours, as well as the formats in which the balls are going to be used, are the colour of the dye on the tanned cowhide, and the difference in ‘finishing.’
Much like the white balls used in limited-overs cricket, pink balls are painted to produce their unique colour and a polyurethane coat is applied on the surface to preserve the bright pink shade for longer durations. The goal is to make the pink colour on the ball sparkle for long, making it easy for fielders, batsmen, fans in the stands, and those watching the game on television to spot.
On the other hand, red balls, which are wax coated, lose their colour quicker and appears brown under floodlights which makes it tremendously difficult for batsmen to spot. Another difference between the pink and red balls lies in the stitch. Red balls are stitched with a white thread while pink balls are stitched with a black thread to add contrast.
Contrary to popular opinion, there’s also no significant difference in weight between the two, and all cricket balls weigh between 156 and 162 grams. Duke, Kookaburra, and SG are the most commonly used brands, and depending on the manufacturer, there might be subtle differences in the seam of the balls.
The pink balls are also believed to swing more than the red balls, especially in the initial overs. It also displays 20% more seam movement and can be tricky for batsmen to judge.
“It is much more challenging to play with a pink ball regardless of the pitch you play on,” Indian captain Virat Kohli said before the pink-ball Test against England in February.
“Especially in the evening, if as a batting team, you are starting your innings under lights then that one and a half hour is very challenging.”
Once the ball becomes softer, the swing starts to disappear. With no real weathering or fading of the leather, pacers find it difficult to get reverse swing, and spinners complain of lack of turn.
More facts about the Day-Night Test matches
As mentioned before, pink-ball Test matches are more likely to produce results and it has been evident so far. In the 19 day-night Test matches played since the first one in 2015, all of them have ended in results. Speaking about firsts in pink-ball Test cricket, Australia’s Josh Hazlewood and Usman Khawaja hold the record for being the first to take a five-wicket-haul and score a century respectively.
India played its first pink-ball Test against Bangladesh in November 2019. Worries about the evening dew, what an SG pink ball might behave like, a lack of reverse-swing, and the visibility of the ball were among the primary reasons why the BCCI was hesitant about day-night Test matches initially.
However, Sourav Ganguly got elected as BCCI President in 2019 which brought about a dramatic turnaround in India’s chief governing body’s stance on pink-ball cricket. The day-night Test match between India and Bangladesh began on November 21 at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata.
Virat Kohli made a brilliant century and he became the first Indian batsman to hit the three-figure-mark in day-night Test matches. India won that match by an innings and 46 runs. So far, India has played three pink-ball Tests, with the most recent being at the Narendra Modi Stadium against Sri Lanka which was wrapped up in only two days.
When was the first Pink ball Test match held in India?
India played its first Pink ball Test match against Bangladesh in November 2019. India won that match by an innings and 46 runs. Ironically, it was also the last match in which Virat Kohli had scored a century before his current drought.
Which was the first Day-Night Test?
The first pink ball test match was played between Australia and New Zealand in November 2015. The Australian team had won that match by three wickets.
Who has scored the most runs in Pink ball Test matches?
With 596 runs, Australia’s David Warner is the leading run-scorer in Pink ball Test matches. He has amassed those runs in six matches at an average of 59.60.
How many players have scored centuries in Pink Ball cricket?
24 centuries have been scored in Pink ball cricket. Marnus Labuschagne leads the list with three tons to his name.