‘Result could have been different a week ago’ – Steyn
South Africa are keen to play more pink-ball cricket even after losing their first day-night Test. Both stand-in captain Faf du Plessis, and Man of the Series Vernon Philander said they would like to see the ball used at home, though South Africa may face some challenges in introducing it.
“The questions we had about day-night cricket were more skeptical and now we are not so much like that anymore,” Faf du Plessis said. “But there are positive signs. I would like to see it in South Africa. Obviously, the lights would have to be upgraded dramatically but it adds something different to Test cricket.”
With the rising cost of electricity, stadiums in South Africa are reluctant to turn the lights on at the best of times, but the merits of investing in the format were on display at the Adelaide Oval. Du Plessis’ day one declaration was the earliest example. He called time on South Africa’s innings to put Australia in for 45 minutes under lights, in the hope of extracting some extra movement and making inroads.
It was a gamble that did not pay off, but South Africa soon realised that twilight was when the pink ball could be most dangerous. Not only did it swing, but it also turned.
They may have been disappointed that their left-arm wristspinner Tabraiz Shamsi did not prove the trump card he was primed to be but du Plessis was pleased to see the improvement from one innings to the next.
“In the first innings Shamsi may not have bowled as well as he wanted,” du Plessis said. “But then in the second innings, in a different situation, he bowled really well. He stepped up to the challenge of being better.”
Stephen Cook was one of three South African players to endorse the pink ball after the Adelaide Test © Getty Images
For Philander, who relied on subtlety, the pink ball sometimes “did too much,” but he said he would also like to see “our domestic teams play with it a bit for future reference.” He couldn’t get the most out of it, but he believed South Africa have a diverse enough attack for someone else to.
“Our attack now covers all bases and the guys have stepped up really well,” Philander said. “With myself and Kyle Abbott upfront, we have seam and swing and then we have KG [Rabada] with a bit of pace. It’s wonderful to have all those varieties available to you but then it’s also up to the captain to see how to use it.”
From a batting perspective, South Africa’s fear of collapsing under lights was not realised, though they did find the going tougher once the sun set. Their most successful batsman, Stephen Cook, learnt that patience was invaluable when facing the pink ball. “You can’t get ahead of yourself with the pink ball. Once you start to chase things, you can come undone,” Cook said. “If you look at Usman Khawaja, he stuck with his game plan from ball one to ball 300 and I tried to do the same thing. Just because I had 60, didn’t meant I could take it to the attack.”
Cook had led the South Africa A side on a pre-series recce in the winter to play with the pink ball, and having faced it more than most, hoped it was here to stay.
“It’s got better in terms of the ball from last year with the white seam, which swung more and deteriorated faster. Now, it lasts longer and is more durable. If those improvements continue to be made, I would absolutely want to keep using it and we won’t have to make conditions to suit the ball. We’ve had a nice experience with it.”
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo’s South Africa correspondent
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