The ECB’s controversial experiment to introduce the pink ball into County Championship cricket met with mixed reviews at a cold and windy Canterbury, where barely 400 first day spectators witnessed history as Kent took on Glamorgan under floodlights.
While most of those who braved the chilly September conditions conceded that the pink Tiflex ball was easy to pick up at the start, there was equally no doubt that it got tougher to see once the initial coating and sheen went off the leather.
By the time Glamorgan went into bat shortly before 9pm most of the faithful had gone home for supper and a warming cup of cocoa; some of them vowing not to return for the remaining three days of the game.
“I don’t see any rhyme or reason to it,” said one Kent member trudging out of the ground at a usual finish time of 6pm; “It feels like we’re being used as lab rats.”
Indeed, his view was backed up to an extent by John Stephenson, the former England batsman who, as the MCC’s head of cricket, was instrumental in trialling the use of pink balls under floodlights in Abu Dhabi last year.
“I’ve always said that in England we probably don’t need to play pink-ball Tests, because we still get decent crowds here,” said Stephenson. “We [the MCC] felt, however, that it was a potential way of rejuvenating Test attendances in places like the West Indies and Bangladesh, for instance.
“I had no influence on this experiment here today, but it is good to have trials and I’m pleased the ECB have taken it on board and run with it.”
Stephenson said that manufacturers Tiflex had been working on a pink ball for two years. He also confirmed that a Kookaburra version would be used for the second innings of the game.
The only difference between the balls on use at St Lawrence this week to those trialled in the UAE is the black seam, which the manufacturers believe will be easier for the players to pick out.
In-form Kent batsman Joe Denly, who top-scored on day one with a fluent 69 and appeared to have little trouble seeing the pink ball during his two-and-a-half hour stay despite the testing conditions, said: “I picked the pink ball up really well from ball one.
“The first delivery of the game from Graham Wagg swung in plenty but, after that, it did nothing. Yes, it turned early on, but it was really slow turn and that was pretty much down to the pitch, not the ball.
“The major thing for me was that the ball lost its brightness really quickly. So, if they continue to use this ball, I would think they will be changing it fairly frequently.”
Former ICC president and ex-ECB chairman David Morgan was also among the ECB delegation on the ground to see how readily the pink ball worked under lights.
He said: “I know it’s not the case for all counties, but some clubs would love to play day/night first-class County Championship cricket. We are here to see if we can give them an element of choice.
“We will have to gauge the opinion of the players and the umpires as the game progresses and see where we go from here.”