Alec Swann - It’ll be alright on the night, won’t it?

Northamptonshire Telegraph's sports writers Jon Dunham, Jim Lyon and Alec Swann.
Northamptonshire Telegraph's sports writers Jon Dunham, Jim Lyon and Alec Swann.

Something of an obscure subject for you this week - pink balls.

And not in this weekend’s FA Cup ties where, my colleague Jon Dunham reliably informs me, a ‘mango’ ball will be used but in the recently concluded round of fixtures in Australian cricket’s Sheffield Shield competition.

Unless you’re a cricket aficionado you may not have noticed that the three four-day games down under were played using a day-night format and with a pink rather than the traditional red ball.

And while full-scale revolution isn’t on the way any time soon, if all goes to plan the international scene may have to incorporate a new kid on the block.

To simplify the point, there is a desire to stage Test matches under floodlights and these first-class games are a step towards that end target.

But, and this is a very big but, so far a suitable ball hasn’t been found that can meet the necessary demands.

Yellow and orange balls have been used in Australia in the past - I can recall watching a days play in Sydney in the late 1990s where a yellow ball was used - but neither was up to the task.

And a pink ball was been used in this country when Kent faced Glamorgan at Canterbury in September 2011 in a County Championship encounter.

But again, the ball was deemed to need more in the way of trials before a step up to international cricket could be contemplated.

One of those further experiments will be conducted when Durham face the MCC in the traditional season opener in Abu Dhabi later this month but whether this clears the matter up is debatable.

What is certain is that some in power will be looking on in keen anticipation for the fallout from the aforementioned contests in Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide respectively.

Should it be favourable, and the scores don’t suggest that anything untoward occured, then it can only be a matter of time before the first ever floodlit Test is staged.

And this cricket fan, for one, would be enthusiastic, is slightly wary, about the concept.

A lot has been made about the current state of the five-day game and more specifically the number of spectators who turn up, so any idea that could reverse that trend has to be welcomed.

The main issue, aside from the ball, comes when dealing with the playing conditions in the evening.

If dew is a significant factor then the natural progression of the game is altered artificially and that should be avoided if at all possible, as should any twilight period that can adversely affect the vision of those playing.

Should these be considered trivial then what is there to lose?

Limited overs cricket is played where dew is present and twilight a hazard and that doesn’t show any signs of stopping.

Yet a complaint can’t be made in one breath and then condemnation of any attempt to provide a solution offered in another.

Proof that the ultimate form of the game is alive and well, in playing terms at least, has just been provided by South Africa’s tussle with Australia so there is little to worry about in that regard.

But times do change and the sport would be foolish if it thought that to sit still and pretend nothing is happening is the best way forward.

If, and it isn’t here yet so let’s not get ahead of ourselves, floodlit Test cricket happens and it doesn’t work then it wouldn’t be too tricky to go back to what has survived for decades.

It’s worth a go.