With Zimbabwe set to join the day/night Test club against SA at St George’s Park on December26‚ how long before pink balls outnumber red in proper cricket? A long time yet‚ Stephen Cook hopes.
"It’s good that we’re playing [a day/night Test in SA] because we’re staying up with the curve and being proactive rather than falling behind‚" the opening batsman said on Wednesday.
"But it should be an every-now-and-then Test match — one in the summer. Then it can keep being special and different. If you start playing too much of it I think it will lose its sparkle quickly," Cook said.
That is not to say Cook is not a fan of the pink ball. He saw and hit it well enough to score 104 in the third Test against Australia in November 2016.
"These days not many people can sit through a whole day of Test cricket‚" Cook said. "So if people can come after work and watch one or two sessions maybe we can grow the popularity," he said.
Australia and New Zealand contested the first day/night Test in Adelaide in November 2015‚ and the Ashes Test at the same venue that ended on Wednesday was the seventh. None have been drawn‚ two have been decided inside three days and four have gone to five days.
That progression would not surprise Cook‚ who said: "We went on an A tour [to Australia in August 2016‚ before the senior tour] and I found it very difficult to pick up the ball."
Facing the pink ball on SA A’s visit‚ Cook eked out 58 runs in four innings. Two ended in ducks‚ the others in scores of five and 53.
"After that they changed the colour of the stitching [from green to black] and a couple of other details‚" he said. "By the time the Test squad got to Australia we were playing with a ball that behaved more like the traditional one.
"Because of the research and development‚ the ball’s quality is getting better and better."
Dilip Jajodia‚ who owns the company that produces balls used in major matches in England‚ said in August the concept was not the finished article.
"There’s not enough [pink-ball] cricket being played around the world to make large quantities to be able to fine tune it‚" Jajodia said. "We’re still developing on the hoof."
Pink and orange‚ he said‚ were good options.
"We have tried yellow. When the ball goes up in the air‚ under lights‚ it’s very good.
"But when the pitch is a grey‚ slightly beige colour‚ the yellow doesn’t stand out enough."
Traditionalists who brand Jajodia as Frankenstein bent on creating monsters in many colours should know that a smartly knotted tie hung around his neck as he spoke.
It was a Marylebone Cricket Club member’s tie.