JOHANNESBURG - The final session of the fourth day’s play at the Adelaide Oval on Tuesday was some of the most dramatic and captivating Test cricket witnessed this year.
It came as no surprise then that caught up in all the excitement of England’s fightback and their ultimately futile attempt to claim victory, a great many people expressed how day/night Test cricket is here to stay and is the way of the future for the format.
While there is no doubt that D/N Tests should become a part of series’ henceforth, we need to be careful of seeing it as the only way to maintain interest in Test cricket. There have been many compelling cases why the five-day (and yes, Tests really should remain as contests played over five days) format remains a compelling item.
Bangladesh beating Australia by 20 runs in Dhaka and the West Indies triumphing over England by five wickets in Leeds earlier this year, were outcomes and matches that enthralled viewers.
But they were upsets, went against the norm. For the most part Test cricket has followed a pattern, particularly in recent times, of the home team being dominant.
Until their series in England, the Proteas had bucked that trend. But it is where one of Test cricket’s major problems lay. There are not enough close contests, such as that which unfolded in Adelaide this week.
The intensity of the play on Tuesday was bewitching, enhanced by it taking place under lights. However, you could argue, given how closely matched the current England and Australian teams are, that the match would have been equally enthralling had play started at 11am.
D/N Test cricket’s attraction lies in its novelty. A bit like the National Hockey League in the United States that hosts what it calls ‘the Winter Classic’ at the start of January every year - an outdoor hockey game played at a baseball stadium or an American football stadium - a D/N Test should be a one-off each summer.
And the venue should be carefully considered. For instance hosting a D/N Test in Cape Town would be a waste, the good folk down there along with the many visitors to the city in the holiday period already make the New Year’s Test at Newlands a marquee event on the South African sports calendar.
The Wanderers on the other hand, and Johannesburg and its cosmopolitan nature in particular, seem better suited to pink ball cricket under lights.
But most importantly, however, it’s the evenness of the contest that will be most appealing for spectators and viewers. Two well-matched teams on a pitch that lends itself to assisting fast bowlers, spinners and giving batsmen willing to work hard success, will make for an attractive Test. That’s what the Adelaide Oval provided (until the final morning) but it would have done so even if the match had not taken place after sunset.