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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 16 December 2018

England favourites but it's West Indies who are in the pink when it comes to knowledge of day-night Tests

First day-night Test to be played in England starts this Thursday when hosts take on West Indies at Edgbaston. Paul Radley looks at five talking points ahead of the game

England's Chris Woakes during nets at Edgbaston, Birmingham, England ahead of the first day-night Test against West Indies. Paul Childs / Reuters
England's Chris Woakes during nets at Edgbaston, Birmingham, England ahead of the first day-night Test against West Indies. Paul Childs / Reuters

England start the first Test against the West Indies with ground to make up when it comes to knowledge of the playing conditions.

They will be playing their first floodlit Test, while their visitors have the experience of a match against Pakistan at the Dubai International Stadium last year to draw on.

The UAE has been central to bringing day-night, pink-ball Test cricket into being, with the Zayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi being a testing ground for the experiment over the past eight years.

Do West Indies have an advantage?

How much of an advantage the West Indies can derive from their experience in the UAE last October is open to question.

They were soundly beaten by Pakistan, even if they did show fight in the second innings, with an eight-wicket haul for lesgpinner Devendra Bishoo and a sparkling century for Darren Bravo.

Bravo is not even part of their squad now, while the conditions in Birmingham are hardly going to be an exact replica of those in Dubai in October anyway.

Preparing the pitch

England and Wales Cricket Board bosses attended the day-night first-class match between Middlesex and MCC at Zayed Cricket Stadium in March. It led to them to formulate a variety of ideas for their first go at hosting a Test in those conditions.

Firstly, they decided that preparing a pitch to order, and thus second guessing the effects a pink ball under lights might have, might be foolhardy.

As such, the groundsmen at Edgbaston have just been left to produce a pitch with characteristics typical of their venue, which usually makes for entertaining cricket.

Dealing with the dew

The ECB have moved to tackle the potential effects of a dewy outfield, though. A standard sight ahead of day-night matches in the UAE, for example, is of the ground staff sat on tractors pulling spray behind them.

The foliar spray, used in agriculture to improve crop yields, is spread to reduce the amount of dew created, and will be implemented at Edgbaston – even though the ECB say they don’t know if it will be necessary of not.

Unlike in Dubai, this Test will have conventional times for its breaks. The first will be 40 minutes (at 7pm UAE time), as with a normal lunch break, while the tea break will be 20 minutes (at around 9.40pm UAE).

England's Chris Woakes during nets at Edgbaston, Birmingham, England ahead of the first day-night Test against West Indies. Paul Childs / Reuters
England's Chris Woakes during nets at Edgbaston, Birmingham, England ahead of the first day-night Test against West Indies. Paul Childs / Reuters

Chance for Stoneman to stake Ashes claim

Keeping in with the spirit of firsts, England will be giving a debut to opener Mark Stoneman. Not that handing out new caps is a particularly novel thing for the home team.

He will be the ninth debutant in the space of 12 Tests for England. None of those has firmly established themselves – although Toby Roland-Jones could hardly have impressed more in two Tests so far – while one, Zafar Ansari, has already retired from cricket entirely.

Starting out in Test cricket age 30, Stoneman has a chance to pitch for a place on the plane to Australia for this winter’s Ashes.

West Indies chances

Not for the first time in the recent past, West Indies' chances of success against England have been widely derided, and they are making the right noises about proving their critics wrong.

Kemar Roach is back to join the pace attack alongside Shannon Gabriel, the fast bowler who impressed against Pakistan in the UAE – but who must be out of pocket by now.

The West Indies have an internal fines system for bowling no-balls (or, at least they said they did when they were in the UAE). Gabriel bowled 20 of them in nine overs bowling in a tour match leading up to the England series.