New regulations light up the County Championship

The third verse of the Book of Genesis reads: “And God said, Let there be light and there was light.” Although not quite having the same authoritative powers, the ECB have issued a similar mandate this season, allowing floodlights to be used in County Championship cricket for the first time.

For many years cricket-watchers have become accustomed to white-ball cricket being played under artificial lighting but the prospect of uninterrupted play in the four-day version will now delight players and spectators alike.

Before the start of the season those counties that have their own permanent pylons were asked if they wished to be granted permission to switch on their lights whenever the conditions warrant it.

One county that were very much in favour were Nottinghamshire, who have already seen the benefit. Their opening Division One match against Worcestershire was uninterrupted and ended on the fourth morning.

However, for three hours on the second day, for part of the first and last sessions on the third day and for the final morning the floodlights were on, bringing a positive result to a match where there wouldn’t have been one in the past.

“The lights certainly worked in our favour in this match,” said Mick Newell, the Nottinghamshire director of cricket afterwards. “It probably won’t always be like that of course but we think it’s a great idea. There’s nothing worse for the paying spectator than sitting in a ground where there’s nothing going on and it’s not raining.”

His opposite number, Worcestershire’s Steve Rhodes, is also in favour. “Unfortunately we haven’t got permanent lights at New Road but it’s enabled a match to go ahead here and we’re all in favour of that. The Trent Bridge lights are very good anyway.”

Derek Brewer, Nottinghamshire’s chief executive, explained the new ruling. “In mid-March we were asked by the ECB whether we wished to be able to use our lights. The choice was either to use them when conditions warrant it or not use them at all.

“There isn’t the facility to pick and choose games – it’s either all or nothing. We reasoned that the lights wouldn’t need to be used that often and if it enabled the cricket to continue then it would be for the good of everyone connected with the game.”

Brewer and his club are fully supportive of the initiative. “This summer, in particular, cricket has to really compete to attract spectators to the grounds. With the Olympics and the European Football Championships providing an alternative we have to do everything we can to attract people to the cricket and keep them coming back.”

Despite having six powerful floodlight towers lighting up Trent Bridge, Brewer says the cost isn’t prohibitive. “It isn’t too expensive for a full day’s usage and the benefits far outweigh the disadvantages.”

In theory, then, play should never again be suspended at Trent Bridge due to deteriorating light. Nor is it particularly good news for the manufacturers of the ‘light-meter’ – the object of more derision and abuse inside grounds than a bad decision, a dropped catch or a reckless stroke.

The ECB handbook covering the new regulation, meanwhile, simply says: “If in the opinion of the umpires the natural light has deteriorated to an unsuitable level they may authorise the home authority to switch on the floodlights so that the match can continue in acceptable conditions.”

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