We all take day/night games for granted these days. There is a special atmosphere when cricket is played under the lights but what, exactly, is floodlit cricket and how did it come about?
What is Floodlit Cricket?
Floodlit cricket is a game that is fully played under the lights. Matches will begin at night when the lights are already switched on and they will also finish as a floodlit game.
Day/Night cricket is slightly different. The game starts in the day and, as darkness falls, the lights are switched on.
What is the Colour of the Cricket Ball for a Floodlit Match?
Traditionally, the ball used in floodlit cricket matches will be white. This aids visibility for both players and spectators as they look for the ball in the night sky.
The exception here is day/night first class and test cricket. In these games, a pink ball is used.
History of Day/Night Cricket
It’s said that the concept of day/night cricket was first trialled way back in the 1930s. Over in Australia, 11 teams across the districts of Adelaide took part in a tournament which was known as the Electric Light Competition.
The idea didn’t take off and the start of the second world war would have put a stop to any future plans at that point. Day/night cricket seems to emerge again in England in 1952 when a game was played between Middlesex Cricket Club and Arsenal Football Club at Arsenal’s Highbury stadium.
This was to be a benefit for Jack Young, a Middlesex and England cricketer. After the game, it appears to have been decided that floodlit matches were not financially viable and the idea was shelved.
One Day International cricket first appeared in 1971 and this may have been the catalyst for unofficial floodlit matches. Kerry Packer’s unofficial World Series played games under lights from 1977 and they were a big hit.
After the cricketing authorities struck a truce with Packer, the first official ODI to be played under lights took place between Australia and West Indies at the SCG in 1979. It was well received and the concept spread from there, right across the world.
Who Invented Day Night Cricket?
The name of the inventor of those original day/night games in Adelaide in the 1930s is lost to history. We cannot, therefore, be sure who invented the concept.
However, we can say for certain that Kerry Packer was a pioneer and the likely inventor of day/night international games.
Britain’s First Floodlit Cricket Match
After that initial trial at Arsenal in 1951, it may come as a surprise to learn that the first fully floodlit cricket match in the UK took place back in 1980. Games had previously been played under lights overseas, most notably in the World Series Cricket of the mid-1970s.
The concept of playing cricket after dark in the UK was unthinkable at the time, particularly as none of the grounds had lights. That’s why football had to step in as Essex took on the West Indies at Stamford Bridge, home of Chelsea FC. It wasn’t an official match, but it was certainly popular with 11,000 spectators turning up.
Unfortunately, floodlights can’t guard against rain and a wet evening brought this historic match to a premature end. Essex were deemed to be the winners due to a faster scoring rate.
Memorable International Day/Night Matches
There have been some unforgettable games played under the floodlights, but which have been the best?
That first official game between Australia and the West Indies in Sydney made history, but it was largely unremarkable as the home side won by five wickets.
I can remember a particularly memorable end to a game between England and Sri Lanka, which was played under lights at Trent Bridge in 2016.
It had been a tight match and, as England chased a target of 286, it came down to them needing 10 off the last two balls. Chris Woakes ran three after a misfield, before Liam Plunkett smashed the last delivery for six to tie the game.
The first ever World Cup final to be played as a day/night game came in Australia in 1992. The Melbourne Cricket Ground took on hosting duties this time as England came up against Pakistan.
England were the favourites and looked to be in control as they aimed to chase down a target of 250. An inspired Pakistan had the last word under those lights as they won a thrilling game by 22 runs.
Australia made history again as they hosted the first ever day/night test match. Adelaide was the destination this time as New Zealand provided the opposition in November 2015.
The game was scheduled to last for five days, but only three were needed. The pink ball moved around considerably in a low scoring game. The seamers did most of the damage and, in a thrilling contest, Australia scraped home by three wickets.
It’s perceived that day/night tests are low scoring, but this isn’t always the case. In England’s first pink ball game at Edgbaston in 2017, Alastair Cook made 243 as the home side posted 514/8 declared after batting first.
There have been many other memorable games under the lights from around the world. If you have a particular favourite, please remember to add some comments.
We often talk about a special atmosphere in day/night cricket and I think this is created by the fans. The timing of these matches means that we can generally expect a full stadium and that adds to the noise and general excitement.
This is probably why we really remember those games under the lights. If we’ve been to a match in person or, even if we have just watched the action on TV, it’s that atmosphere that makes the fixture stand out in our memories.
I think it’s one of the great innovations in the game but, irrespective of my opinion, I’m certain that day/night cricket will continue to thrive.