Why Two Days Of The Perth Test Was The Perfect Advertisement For The Day-Night-Tests > Cricket News, cricinfo, mobilecric, cricbuzz, livescore and more
Cricket news - Why day two of Perth Test was the perfect advertisement for Day-Night Tests
Smith pulled off a stunner diving to his right to dismiss Williamson in the final session to change the complexion of the Test.
If you didn't know already, Steve Smith likes to present his body at odd angles to the camera when he's on a cricket field. The pose he struck on Friday (December 13) night at the floodlit Perth Stadium wasn't new though. He'd flown to his right with his feet suspended horizontally to the ground and been captured with a ball in his outstretched hand a few times in the past. But this was different. He'd never quite done so wearing whites and with the floodlights on. He'd never quite done so at a more crucial juncture of a Test. He'd never quite done so in a way where at that precise point the entire tempo and temper of the contest seemed to be raised through the roof. It did of course help that the man his spectacular catch had helped dismiss was Kane Williamson. But in the context of the game and the setting, it might well be the moment that in years to come is regarded as the defining image of why day-night Tests are the future.
It had been a session already that had witnessed fever-pitch excitement. Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood had taken out the openers within the first two overs. Hazlewood had then, unfortunately, stumbled off after pulling his hamstring. Tim Paine had once again made the wrong call-though he could be pardoned on this occasion for not having supersonic hearing like Smith-by not reviewing a caught-behind appeal off Williamson. Ross Taylor had smashed a ball right into his captain before smashing three boundaries off Nathan Lyon. And Australia's two most intimidating fast bowlers had indulged in a ball v bat contest of world-class proportions with Williamson and Taylor coming through unscathed, just about. To such an extent that the visitors seemed to have warded off the perils of batting under lights against a brand-new pink ball.
Only for Smith to show that the "most destructive Batman in the world"-as he's been advertised by the main broadcaster in Australia this season-could also at times pull of stunts akin to Superman. His catch didn't just give Starc his second wicket for the evening, but also set up his fiery spell late in the day, which resulted in two more wickets and left New Zealand reeling. It was a two-and-a-half-hour period which if anything epitomised the charm of playing Test cricket into the night and under lights.
It'd been the proverbial day of attrition in the first two sessions of the day. There were vast periods of batsmen trying to wear down the bowlers and bowlers trying to wear down the batsmen and the resultant stalemate. Australia wanted to bat time and make sure that they drag their innings long enough to ensure their new-ball bowlers get first go in twilight. New Zealand meanwhile seemed keener on letting Australia have their time in the middle rather than risk conceding runs while trying to get them out. It didn't help that they were a bowler short and also meant Mitchell Santner and Jeet Raval bowled in tandem for a large period of the second session.
It meant, except a characteristic brave-heart spell from Neil Wagner in the first session, the game trudged along with little or no momentum. And it showed in the numbers with Australia's run-rate never quite managed to inch too close to three-an-over despite explosive starts and finishes-courtesy David Warner and Starc respectively. It would end up being the second-longest Australia had taken to reach 400 in a home Test since 2000-they'd taken an over more than the 141.5 here to get there against England in Adelaide two years ago.
That it didn't often make for great viewing was summed up succinctly by Starc later when he said, "It was probably slow to watch and certainly to be a part of. That was certainly the pink-ball tactics to try and utilise the brand-new pink ball under lights like we saw with Tim (Southee) last night, moving it around and getting some late swing. I guess it's probably justified when you take 5 wickets in the last session."
Interestingly, Tim Paine, the last Australian to be dismissed, was caught down the leg-side while attempting a swivel pull with precisely two minutes left for the evening break at 5.40 pm. It's around the time when a traditional Test match day would have ended. And if it had, you'd imagine Thursday would have finished up in the unremarkable list of the most unremarkable days of Test cricket in a long time.
Instead, and rather ironically, the grit and grind of the day sessions were in a way a setup for the potential exhilaration of the pink-ball under lights. It had worked perfectly for Australia too. They'd got exactly what they wanted. Their strategy of fighting New Zealand's patience and discipline with their own patience and discipline had worked. They'd also set the stage for the kind of high-octane, highbrow cricket we've barely seen this summer.
How the pink-ball behaves under lights has been a topic of great scrutiny ever since day-night Tests came into being four years ago. It has since become the basis of the format itself. Here finally, once the openers had left with Hazlewood sadly following suit, two of the world's best with the ball were up against two of the world's best with the bat. And in their own ways, Williamson and Taylor and the way they handled Starc and Cummins were as crucial to the overall buzz around Perth Stadium that was set off by the two early strikes, burgeoned by Smith's aerial heroics and then carried it forward when Henry Nicholls and Wagner fell off consecutive Starc deliveries.
Williamson and Taylor approach playing the ball very differently. While Williamson is renowned for playing the ball later than probably anybody in world cricket and therefore delays committing to any stroke till very late, Taylor always seems keen on a premature appointment with the ball. But despite being tested by the movement and pace being generated, both veterans showed great resolve in leaving balls be or in their strong defensive technique. There were some that rushed past their bats and others which had them rushing to be in line. And apart from the inevitable plays and misses along with the occasional edge, they hung in there gamely. Taylor, in particular, was also harsh on any form of width and like always kept getting better as his knock progressed. The threat of Lyon was negated very early with Taylor choosing to jump out of his crease repeatedly against the off-spinner. And Lyon responded by adjusting his angle of attack and the pace at which he was bowling.
It was like the final session of the day had pushed every batsman and bowler to raise their respective bars. It not only meant that an otherwise stodgy day had been brought to life, this was also the perfect advertisement for why day-night Tests are here to stay not quite to breathe life into cricket's traditional format, but certainly to keep it fresh.
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