LONDON—England will host a historic day-night Test against West Indies at Edgbaston next August in an effort to attract more spectators to the sport in the country.
In an innovative initiative that was first trialled by Australia to great acclaim last November, the England and Wales Cricket Board has decided to experiment with a floodlit Test using a pink ball for the first time from August 17-21.
Both the ECB and the West Indies Cricket Board, as well as broadcasters and sponsors, have given the plans the green light in a series opener where players will wear traditional Test match whites and each day will start at 2pm and finish seven hours later.
A final cut-off time of 9.50pm has been agreed with the local council while it is possible play may start earlier in the event of rain delays.
ECB chief executive Tom Harrison acknowledged dwindling attendances at Test matches outside London have forced the governing body to broaden its horizons.
He said: “We’ve got to embrace opportunities as and when they come. The reality is we don’t know what the impact of this is going to be. We’re taking an open view and are very hopeful and expectant that it’s going to have a real impact on our market.
“It’s another continuation of our sincere drive in our strategy to make cricket as accessible as possible and to keep driving this new audience with a particular focus on the younger audience.”
Australia and New Zealand contested the inaugural day-night Test in Adelaide 11 months ago in a game that lasted only three days but one that increased revenue at the ground and swelled television audiences.
Such was the success of the trial that Cricket Australia confirmed there will be two more this year, one each against South Africa and Pakistan, while the United Arab Emirates will be the second country to host a day-night Test when Pakistan play West Indies in Dubai next week.
The next Ashes series in 2017/18 is almost certain to feature a Test under lights in Australia, giving England’s game at Edgbaston added significance in their preparation as they bid to retain the urn.
Harrison revealed both England and the Windies will be given the chance to adjust to the format, with the tourists’ three-day warm-up against Derbyshire, beginning on August 11, to be staged under floodlights with a pink ball.
Heavy scrutiny is likely to fall on the pink ball, which has been used in the traditional curtain raiser to the domestic season between the MCC and the county champions, also a day-night game, in Abu Dhabi.
The ECB says it was ‘successfully trialled’ in a second XI match between Warwickshire and Worcestershire at Edgbaston in August although plans to have a floodlit first-class match in the final round of the County Championship campaign were scrapped.