Midway through the lifeless Boxing Day Test – the one played on a pitch that closely resembled the Hume Highway – England’s Barmy Army broke into tune. “3-nil and you still don’t sing!” the Army chanted in a delightful dig at the home crowd, most of whom were battling to stay awake.
It was a rare highlight of a dreadfully boring, go-nowhere Test Match – that, despite Alastair Cook’s epic 244 not out. In fact, other than the Adelaide day-nighter, the 2017/18 Ashes was a stinker.
Steve Smith, and the Marsh brothers, smashing hundreds on flat decks was fun for a while, but lopsided matches do nothing to grow the game, or keep punters interested.
Australia won two Tests by an innings (Perth & Sydney), while 10 wickets was the margin of victory in Brisbane. Most matches felt done and dusted by stumps on day two.
Even the trophy celebration at the conclusion of the Sydney Test was a dud. You’ll see more fireworks on an eight year old’s birthday cake.
At least we had the much-loved Adelaide day-night Test, which proved to be the only competitive match of a dull series.
England foolishly won the toss and opted to field first, but bowling under lights at dusk on day three, they at least had a chance to course correct – James Anderson’s five wicket haul, dragging the visitors back from the brink.
The Aussies won in the City of Churches by 120 runs, but for a little while, it was squeaky bum time for the hosts. And that’s the beauty of pink ball cricket – it delivers a genuine contest between bat and ball, even if a team appears down and out.
Australia play home Tests against Bangladesh and India this year, followed by Sri Lanka, Pakistan and the West Indies in 2019. You don’t need a crystal ball to conclude that only India will pose a serious threat.
For the love of entertaining cricket, it’s time to up the ante on day-night Tests. A minimum of two pink balls Tests, per tour, would be just the tonic to even up the playing field.
In normal Test conditions, Bangladesh and the Windies stand next to no chance of knocking off Australia. But throw the visitors a hooping Kookaburra on sunset, and there’s actual hope that David can land a few blows on Goliath.
Last trip, Pakistan went down to the Aussies by 39 runs in the first pink ball Test to be played at the Gabba – it was the closest they’d get all tour to beating Australia on its home patch.
In October last year, Sri Lanka – confirmed for a 2019 day-night Test against Australia in Canberra – edged Pakistan by 68 runs in a tense match, played under lights in Dubai.
Repeat after me – the pink ball produces entertaining cricket. More day-nighters, please.