Cricket Australia toying day-night Test matches

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Sydney, Dec 13 (UNI) In a move that could revolutionise the face of the game and horrify many of the conservative fans, Cricket Australia is preparing to defy 130 years of tradition by trialling day-night Test matches within three years.

CA Officials are examining the possibility of scheduling games from 2pm-9pm or 3pm-10pm. The move was aimed at tapping the growing audiences attracted to one-day and Twenty20 matches that are threatening to diminish the relevance of the five-day game.

''We are tossing it around and working out fundamentals,'' CA chief executive James Sutherland told The Australian.

''In a realistic sense we don't see any reason why we can't be at least trialling some day-night Test cricket matches -- not necessarily all of them -- before the end of the decade. It could happen sooner, I don't know. We need to explore that and go through a consultative process.'' In Australia, Test matches, which traditionally begin at 11am and finish at 6pm, always span weekends, but suffer from smaller audiences on week-days when people work. The day games also miss TV's prime ratings periods.

But, the trials with day-night state matches in the past had encountered problems with seeing the yellow ball, particularly at dusk, and also the amount of dew that fell on some grounds.

''I'm not going to say we will do it for all Tests. I am saying that in order to meet consumer demands and to satisfy, if not fuel, consumer interests in the game it would appear there are many good reasons why we should be playing Test cricket at night,'' said Sutherland, who played a big role in conceptualisation of Champions Twenty20 League -- the international counterpart of Indian Premier League -- earlier this year.

Day-night ODI matches were introduced by Kerry Packer in November 1978, using yellow and later white balls. They have proven to be a hit with TV audiences and crowds who can pick up the game after work.

Sutherland said the move was not being driven by television rights holder, Nine Network, and claimed he had not spoken with the network about the idea.

Australia captain Ricky Ponting was not, however, overjoyed with the new idea.

''I'm a bit of a traditionalist. I wouldn't like to be changing the way Test cricket is looked at and played too much,'' he told the newspaper.

''We had day-night Shield games a while ago, although I didn't play in them. They played a lot in Perth, they played a lot in Brisbane, and by all accounts they were a nightmare for batsmen,'' he said.

Sutherland said the day-night Tests would make the game available to more people.

''Cricket is sport but it's also entertainment and as administrators our responsibility is to meet customers' needs.'' UNI

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