Batsmen have dominated Australia’s series against New Zealand, but the pink ball and a green-tinged wicket should swing the balance of power back to the bowlers when Adelaide hosts Test cricket’s inaugural day-night match.
No fewer than 11 centuries were struck in the opening two matches in Brisbane and Perth, humbling some of the world’s top pacemen and triggering a round of denunciations over the state of Australia’s modern pitches.
Ironically, Adelaide Oval, long regarded a batsman’s paradise, could give the bowlers the last word in a series that has smouldered, but rarely caught fire.
Leading 1-0, Australia retained the Trans-Tasman trophy with the meandering draw in Perth, so much of the suspense in Adelaide will center on the fitness of the pink ball and how it plays on the venue’s drop-in wicket.
If the ball can last a full 80 overs and produce a reasonable contest with the bat, the match is likely to be hailed a triumph by Australia’s hosting cricket board and day-night Tests could ultimately be adopted by other nations.
Developed painstakingly over a number of years by local manufacturer Kookaburra, the ball has had its share of critics, with batsmen in all three lead-up Sheffield Shield matches in Adelaide complaining of visibility issues.
However, their complaints are music to the ears of Australia spinner Nathan Lyon.
“It’s perfect,” Lyon told reporters last week. “Batters can’t see the seam. It’s going to be pretty interesting.”
With fast bowler Mitchell Johnson retiring after the Perth Test, Lyon has been joined by a second spinner in the squad in the form of his New South Wales teammate Steve O’Keefe. Dubbed a “pink ball specialist” by local media, O’Keefe took wickets in each of the Shield matches in Adelaide and played his sole Test with Lyon against Pakistan last year, a humbling 221-run defeat on a dead pitch in Dubai.
The prospect of two specialist spinners combining on home soil is more curious for local fans who have not seen the novelty since the days of Shane Warne and Stuart MacGill.
That might ultimately mean unlucky seamer Peter Siddle ends up missing out again after being dropped for the opening two Tests, but selectors have also suggested paceman Josh Hazlewood could be due for a rest.
Depleted by injuries, New Zealand’s bowlers have labored to contain the hosts’ batsmen in the first two matches, so front-line quick Trent Boult’s back injury is untimely.
The swing specialist will be given every chance to prove his fitness for Adelaide, with fellow left-armer Neil Wagner likely to come in if he fails to pass the tests.
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