England’s Test captain, Joe Root, believes the issue of bad light “needs to be addressed” so the game can avoid the farcical scenes witnessed at the Ageas Bowl in recent days.
Only 134.3 overs were possible in the second Test – 38.1 of them on the final day – as a combination of bad light and conditions deemed too wet to play conspired to ruin any chance of either England or Pakistan pushing for victory. Only eight Tests in England or Wales in which any play has been possible have been worse hit by such conditions; all but one were not five-day encounters.
That left Root calling for a variety of “different things that could be trialled” to avoid such examples in the future. Among the measures Root suggested was earlier start times, the use of a brighter ball and improved floodlights to ensure play could continue regardless of the light.
But he cautioned against expecting a change to start times ahead of the final Test of this series, which is scheduled to begin on the same ground on Friday, arguing that agreements had been made with Pakistan ahead of the series and it may be too late to change them.
“Maybe we could start half-an-hour earlier if we’ve lost time,” Root said. “You don’t necessarily have to start every game at 10.30am, but maybe if you need to make time up that is something to look at so light isn’t as much of an issue. It’s something to look at. It may be a possibility.
“There an MoU [Memorandum of Understanding] that’s been put in place [ahead of this series], so I’m not sure how flexible things are to change. But moving forwards, it is something that could potentially be looked at beyond this series.
“Maybe there’s got to be a minimum standard of floodlights and [we should] play on throughout. Maybe we could use a lighter red ball rather than a dark Dukes ball.
“There are different things that could be trialled to avoid similar scenarios in future. It’s not very often you lose so much cricket to bad light, but it’s frustrating and a huge talking point. I think it needs to be addressed somewhere, somehow.”
At present, every day of Test cricket in England starts at 11am regardless of the amount of overs lost in the game. The ECB has, in the past, argued that to change the start time at short notice – such as the evening before – could leave ticket holders missing the start of play. There have also been concerns expressed at the help an earlier start might provide to seamers able to exploit any dew or other moisture in the pitch or wider environment.
Many of Root’s concerns were echoed by the Pakistan bowling coach, Waqar Younis, who also called for more trials into measures that could mitigate against the problem of bad light.
“Worldwide the pink ball is only really being played with on a trial basis as we see if we run into problems,” Waqar said. “In day-night matches, there is strong evidence to suggest the pink ball could work, but in England, only one pink-ball Test has happened.
“I don’t yet know how a pink Dukes ball is going to behave in this country. If conditions are overcast and the lights are on, maybe it’ll do too much. The toss becomes very important.
“Purely for revenue and entertainment, it’s a promising idea, but everyone will need to adapt. We need to see more pink-ball use in domestic cricket in England to get the full picture. We need further trials in England.
“I feel unless the light gets really bad, we can stay out there a bit longer.”
Root, meanwhile, said he had sympathy both for the match officials and groundstaff and suggested it was an issue which needed to be addressed “higher up the chain”. ESPNcricinfo understands the ICC cricket committee will review issues around bad light at their next meeting.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen a game be affected by bad light as much as this,” Root said. “Which is very frustrating. But it’s been very wet throughout the week and the ground staff have done everything they can to get it dry.
“I do think it’s hard to blame the umpires here. I think there’s something bigger that needs looking up higher up the chain. This is way above my pay grade.”
Root also provided some insight into the challenges posed by playing in poor light, suggesting safety was only one of the aspects to consider.
“There’s an element of danger that comes into it,” he said. “Sometimes when you are facing someone really quick it can feel a little bit more dangerous.
“But sometimes with the bat in hand, if I’m brutally honest, it becomes more challenging [in poor light]. It can be quite hard trying to pick which way a bowler is looking to swing it or you might be trying to spot a googly from a legspinner. That can be frustrating at times.
“But it’s the field, square of the wicket, where you feel most vulnerable. You don’t want to be at fault, running in the wrong direction or missing a big chance. Similarly, the umpires might feel in danger as well if someone crunches a pull shot or hits one straight back at them. They have also got to be able to see and make the right decisions on the field.”