The visit of West Indies to England will not be like any cricket match seen before in this country. Play will begin at 2pm, the action won’t finish until 9:30pm and a pink ball will be utilised under the Edgbaston floodlights. Nobody knows quite what to predict when play begins on Thursday afternoon.
“We need to be adaptable”
In a move designed to promote attendance figures for the five-day format of the sport, English cricket fans are getting used to watching household names ply their trade in the evenings. Twenty20 matches regularly pack out even the largest of grounds and the English Cricket Board (ECB) are hoping such a move in Test cricket will boost the following for the sport’s longest format of the game.
With 90% of tickets sold for the first three days and 40% of those bought by first-time cricket spectators, the idea already appears to be a success in the early stages. Yet England bowler Stuart Broad echoed the sentiments of many keen viewers, stating “I just don’t know what to expect. We need to be adaptable on the day”.
Bat or bowl under the lights?
The toss will still be important on Thursday, taking into account the weather forecast over the next five days. Yet the floodlights will also play a factor in the decision to bat or ball. Many pundits are suggesting it will be more challenging to bat under the lights where visibility could be an issue. However, a similar problem is likely to feature for fielders attempting to spot the pink ball in dark conditions.
England all-rounder Moeen Ali explained that striking the ball could be harder to judge too. He explained, "it feels lighter off the bat. Sometimes you don't feel like you've hit it and it goes, other times you've nailed it and it doesn't.” Former England star Paul Collingwood suggested, “the ball is like plastic when you hit it”.
Do the visitors have a slight advantage?
Four day-night matches have taken place since the concept’s unveiling two years ago. Three of those contests were played in Australia, all won by the hosts, whilst Pakistan defeated England’s opponents West Indies by 56 runs in Dubai last year.
The visitors have a slight advantage in that respect but England go into the contest as overwhelming favourites after their 3-1 series win against South Africa in recent weeks. The hosts dominated all the contests they won, although they did capitulate in the third Test to prove there still needs to be some work done on their consistency.
England squad looks stronger
One man who generally always delivers is Joe Root. There may still be some question marks over his captaincy but the number three has scored a half-century in ten consecutive matches. With Moeen hitting top form after taking five more wickets than anyone else in the recent series against South Africa, England have a core spine to cement their squad.
The return to fitness of Chris Woakes adds further options in the seam bowling department alongside the likes of Broad, James Anderson, Toby Roland-Jones and Ben Stokes. Mason Crane will add support to the spin options after Liam Dawson was left out, though an area for concern continues to be England’s opening partnership. Keaton Jennings has been dropped in favour of Mark Stoneham who is the second leading run-scorer in County Championship Division One. Stoneham will become the 12th opening partner for Alistair Cook in the last five years.
West Indies come into the contest as major underdogs despite beating Pakistan in their last Test match. With two wins from their last four, only Kraigg Brathwaite and all-rounder Roston Chase come into the contest with any sort of form. Chase made his debut last year and has scored 99 more runs than anyone else in the ten matches played since then, contributing three of the five West Indies centuries across the same period.