The LV=County Championship match between Kent and Glamorgan, starting at Canterbury on Monday September 12, will be a ground-breaking affair as the four-day contest will be the first day-night contest in the Championship, besides being the first to use pink balls, with the floodlights at the historic St Lawrence Ground set for action with amended playing times of 2pm until 9pm.
The traditional starting times of 11.00am or 11.30am are a throwback to the days of train travel, with starting times for Championship matches being arranged in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to allow the players taking part in the three-day games, as well as the spectators, sufficient time in which to travel by steam train and to arrive at the venues.
In recent years, especially with the advent of floodlit one-day games, the ECB has sanctioned matches starting late on the first day at 12 noon when teams have been playing the previous night, but the starting times on subsequent days of these games have reverted to the normal time of 11.00am.
A few experiments have taken place with later starting times. For example, in July 1998 Sussex met Somerset at Hove with the Championship match running from 12.30pm until 8pm. Similarly, in 1956 Gloucestershire also experimented with adjusted playing times with their games against Northamptonshire and Yorkshire at Bristol starting at 1.30pm and continuing until 8.20pm.
The motive for these experiments was to see if more people would come to match after work, and reduced admission fees after 5pm were tried to lure increased attendances. Wisden’s correspondent in 1956 reported that for Gloucestershire’s match against Yorkshire, around 1,200 people were admitted at the reduced rate of a shilling. But Gloucestershire’s experiment in the game with Northants was scuppered by rain as a heavy storm ended play on the first day at 7.10pm while on the second day a torrential downpour brought a cessation at 6.20pm.
This year’s game at Canterbury will be the first in the four-day competition to use a pink ball. In April 2008 the MCC beat Scotland in a 50-over game at Lord’s which was the first game played in England to use a pink ball. In July 2009, a one-day international between England Women and Australia Women also used pink balls, as did the match between Durham and the MCC at Abu Dhabi in March 2010.
Several 2nd XI contests this summer have been played with a pink ball but the match between Kent and Glamorgan will be the first Championship game not to use conventional red balls.