Zondi urges pink-ball cricket in SA domestic circuit

Quinton de Kock, who played with the pink-ball during a warm-up match before the Test series, said the ball was no different from any other coloured ball © Cricket Australia/Getty Images

Linda Zondi, CSA’s convener of selectors, has suggested that South Africa should consider introducing pink-ball cricket at first-class level. This, he said, would help prepare players for the inevitable move towards more day-night Test cricket.

“From a selection point of view, it only makes common sense as we move on that guys need to familiarise themselves with the process,” Zondi said. “You cannot be in a position where at the international level, you play with a particular ball but then at franchise level, where you are selecting from, the guys are not.”

While Australia, India, England, Pakistan, Bangladesh and West Indies have all introduced some pink-ball matches into their domestic competitions, South Africa’s only first-class experience with it was four years ago in a match between franchise team Knights and provincial side North-West. The only member of the current South Africa squad who played in that match was Rilee Rossouw. Rossouw made 21 and 2 in the drawn game, during which issues were raised about the quality of the ball.

The pink ball was used again during the group stages of the inaugural Africa T20 Cup in 2015 – a season-opening tournament played between the provincial semi-professional sides alongside a team each from Zimbabwe, Kenya and Namibia. After feedback from players, match officials and the host broadcaster, it was decided that white balls would be used for the knockout round. This year’s Africa T20 did not feature pink balls at all.

South Africa have also not been tempted to experiment with it in a franchise match. It was only when they agreed to play a day-night Test on this Australia tour that their international players were exposed to the pink ball. South Africa A toured Australia in winter and sent opening batsmen Stephen Cook and Dean Elgar, middle-order man Temba Bavuma and opening bowler Vernon Philander to gain experience with the pink ball. Initially, Philander expressed concerns about the softness of the ball.

He has since returned with the Test squad, who played in a pink-ball warm-up match in Adelaide before the series. There, Quinton de Kock downplayed the hype over the pink ball, saying he found it no different from any other colour ball because it was tricky to face upfront and then became easier.

Kyle Abbott had similar views after the Hobart Test. “It is not that much different to a red ball, or a white ball really for us. It is either going to swing or seam,” he said. “It all depends on the surface. It might nip. Under lights it did seem to nip a bit, but we’ll just have to see when we get there because I think the conditions will be a little bit different.”

The Adelaide pitch is expected to have a fair amount of grass – a means of delaying the aging of the ball – which hints at an advantage for bowlers. South Africa, though, can’t be too sure because their experience with the pink ball is limited to the matches they have played in Australia. Only Rossouw knows otherwise, although Zondi is hopeful that will change in future.

“The key is that within the franchise, within our structure, sooner or later it will be an idea to also make sure all those guys where we pick from are using the pink ball,” Zondi said. “I’m not quite sure when it will happen because that’s a different pipeline in terms of the guys who are dealing with it but we hope it will happen.”

While all major franchise grounds have the facilities for day-night first-class cricket, a potentially prohibitive cost will be that of turning the lights on. Electricity prices in South Africa have risen 10% in 2016 alone and most stadiums spend hundreds of thousands of Rands to use floodlights. The franchises and provinces are heavily funded by CSA so if domestic pink-ball cricket is to become a reality, the finances will need to be carefully assessed.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo’s South Africa correspondent

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Source: ESPN Crickinfo

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