Sports

Sports: Jeremy Wells on Sulking, Bad Calls and Pink Balls

Lover of cricket Jeremy Wells wraps up the historic first day-night test match between Australia and New Zealand and wonders whether that completely baffling DRS call really was the deciding factor.

Let me say this. I like the pink ball. I mean, the actual ball. I think the red ball should now be a pink ball. Actually, I think the white ball should be a pink ball, too. Let’s just make everything pink. It looks good. It does things. Pink is the future of cricket.

As for the day night test, how good? The night session brings a brand new dimension to the play. Waiting for the night session is like waiting for Prime Time. You know there is going to be drama and action. You look forward to that. I looked forward to that. My wife despaired. Imagine if this thing had gone the distance. Day Night Test Matches are the new divorce mechanism.

Perfect. Screen grab c/- Alex Hill

Perfect. Screen grab c/- Alex Hill

As for the match itself, I’m not saying the Nathan Lyon not out call by Nigel Llong was the single contributing factor in Australia’s victory, but let’s just say it was a massive call – too massive in the context of the test. What we saw there was a terrible decision that undoubtedly altered the flow and momentum of the game.

Understandably, but unfortunately, the Black Caps did not recover quickly enough after that decision. They descended into a sulk and you can’t do that against the Australians – they will rub your nose in it for eternity, like a dog that just shat on the lounge room carpet.

It would have been incredibly hard not to have been pissed at that call, and that’s where a sledge comes in handy – a way to release some pent up anger. But the Black Caps don’t do that, and nor should they.

When Lyon walked back to the crease, McCullum should have called in his troops, got them in a circle and delivered a very clear message: “What just happened is unfair, but it’s happened. Now we have to start again and get this guy out.” It would have sent a message to Nigel Llong, too.

If you think about where the test stood when that call was made, there is every chance that had Nathan Lyon been adjudged out, New Zealand would have cleaned up the lower order and opened their second innings with a lead, even allowing for a wagging of the tail. It is a very different mindset coming out to bat again knowing you are in front (even by a smidgen) as opposed to knowing you have a deficit to make up before you can start to compile a decent innings.

DRS

That aside, you have to hand it to Josh Hazlewood who bowled incredibly well – better than any of the New Zealanders bowled. And New Zealand’s batsmen failed to capitalise on the fact that Mitchell Starc did not bowl at all in the second innings. Had the Black Caps been able to occupy the crease for longer, the man-down Australian attack may well have faltered through fatigue. As it was, they were never pushed for long enough.

What Mitchell Starc did do was hit some crucial and necessary first innings runs off Mark Craig – runs that in the great wash up of this match may well have proved the difference between victory and defeat. Quite why the Black Caps persisted with Craig at that stage of the match remains a mystery. It was, perhaps, an illustration of just where the collective New Zealand head was at after being shafted by the DRS.

That said, the selectors were absolutely right to have included two spinners in the side. Had the match gone into a fourth or fifth day, there is no doubt that selectorial investment would have paid off. Two spinners on day five on the Adelaide pitch is the right call to make. It works 80 per cent of the time, every time.

And while we’re on the subject of timing, that’s what this test was about: the timing of New Zealand’s second innings, given that the night sessions proved to be challenging for both their novelty and their unpredictability; the timing of the Nigel Llong call, given that it completely undermined the Black Caps’ superior footing in the match; the timing of the final innings, given that it came two days before its intended and optimum scheduling.

The Black Caps look on after the third test loss (Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

The Black Caps look on after the third test loss (Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Test cricket may have changed with its first foray into the day-night environment, but some things remained the same. New Zealand batsmen got themselves out driving, which is what New Zealand batsmen have done in Australia forever. Even Kane Williamson was caught behind the stumps, which is the first time he’s been sucked into that in the best part of a year. And the Australians proved once again that no matter how many new dogs they roll out, they stick to the old tricks.

What is undeniable, too, is that this Black Caps side got better as the series wore on. Underdone in  Brisbane, they were every bit the equal of the Australians in Perth (Ross Taylor’s magnificent and record-setting innings in the second test deserves every accolade thrown at it), and were competitive to the end in Adelaide, in a match that provided the requisite twists and turns to make the whole experiment a successful one.

Kane Williamson gets the New Zealander of the series nod from this correspondent. Moreover, it would not be much of a stretch to say that he will, at some stage, be regarded as the very best batsman in the world. Trent Boult embodied the fighting spirit in this side with his second innings five-wicket haul, and Mitchell Santner, who looks more like a Thunderbird than any cricketer in history, impressed on debut.

And then there is the pink ball. Standing out like Chris Pringle’s nose zinc or the ass of an on-heat baboon on those twilight evenings in Adelaide, the pink ball ushers in the new test-match era, swinging and darting about in the nighttime, as proud as a gay rights marcher, giving the middle digit to the traditionalists and giving cricket a contest to savour.

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