When England take on West Indies at Edgbaston in a few hours in a day-night Test, it will be the fifth such Test match in the history of cricket. Played with a pink ball under floodlights, day-night Tests attracted a lot of criticism during its inception. However, slowly but steadily teams have come to terms with the ball and playing conditions, and at least four more such Tests have been lined up over the next year.
England will be playing their first day-night game while the Windies had had a taste of pink ball cricket in Dubai when they took on Pakistan and lost.
"I promise you, we are stepping into the unknown," Stuart Broad had exclaimed two days ago when talking about pink ball cricket. In a way it is true. Pink ball cricket is still a relatively new feature in world cricket. There have been apprehensions over the softness of the ball, the seam colour and several other features.
But it is an "unknown" and that alone makes it exciting. ODIs, helmets, T20 cricket and the switch-hit were all relatively "unknown" when they first arrived. But haven't they all left their marks on modern day cricket? The pink ball is well and truly on its way to becoming commonplace in cricket, but as of now teams are still giving it a suspicious glance.
Before the fifth such pink ball Test, here's a look back at the four that have been played so far:
Australia versus New Zealand - Adelaide Oval, November 2015
The inaugural pink ball Test was played at the Adelaide Oval in front of a packed crowd. The size of audiences had reduced down in Test cricket and the new late night timings brought more crowd.
The pink ball swung around under the lights and the likes of Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Doug Bracewell, Tim Southee and Trent Boult enjoyed to their fullest. The Test turned out to be a low-scoring affair with Australia winning by three wickets after Hazlewood's six-wicket haul in the second innings set Australia a target of 187. Boult worried them with a five-wicket haul, but the Australians managed to chase the target down with three wickets to spare.
Scorecard: New Zealand 202 (Latham 50, Starc 3/24) & 208 (Santner 45, Hazlewood 6/70) lost to Australia 224 (Nevill 66, Bracewell 3/18) & 187/7 (Marsh 49, Boult 5/60)
Pakistan versus West Indies - Dubai, October 2016
Day-night Tests returned after almost a year, this time at Dubai with Pakistan hosting the Windies in their adopted home. However, contrary to a common notion that the pink ball only supports the bowlers, batsmen dominated the Test with Azhar Ali notching up a triple hundred (302) in Pakistan's first innings.
But then, Devendra Bishoo took eight in the second innings to bowl out Pakistan for 123 and raise hopes for a West Indian win but despite Darren Bravo's fighting fourth innings ton, Pakistan romped home by 56 runs.
Scorecard: Pakistan 579/3decl (Ali 302, Aslam 90) & 123 (Aslam 44, Bishoo 8/49) beat West Indies 357 (Bravo 87, Yasir 5/121) & 289 (Bravo 116, Amir 3/63)
Australia vs South Africa - Adelaide Oval, November 2016
The Adelaide Oval witnessed its second day-night Test when Proteas took on the Aussies in their first pink ball Test. Led by the charismatic Faf du Plessis, South Africa had already swept the series with victories in the first two Tests before the teams clashed at Adelaide for the day-night encounter.
The Aussies, more experienced with the pink ball, and playing in front of a home crowd, bowled extremely well to topple the South African juggernaut. Faf du Plessis shone with a hundred in the first innings and then stunned everyone by declaring on 259 with his team having a wicket to spare. It was a tactical move to bowl at the Aussies under lights with the pink ball.
Usman Khawaja, however, notched up a fine hundred for the Aussies as they took a decisive lead of 124 in the first innings.
A Stephen Cook hundred was South Africa's only major contribution in the second innings as Mitchell Starc and Nathan Lyon shared the spoils. A target of 127 set was easily chased down by the hosts to avert a whitewash.
Scorecard: South Africa 259/9decl (Faf du Plessis 118, Hazlewood 4/68) & 250 (Cook 104, Starc 4/80) lost to Australia 383 (Khawaja 145, Abbott 3/49) & 127/3 (Warner 47, Smith 40)
Australia vs Pakistan - Brisbane, December 2016
Another pink ball Test and another humdinger was played out. The Aussies, now much more experienced than any other International side with the pink ball, took on Pakistan in a pink ball Test in the first Test of the series at Brisbane.
Batting first, the Aussies piled up 429 courtesy hundreds from Steven Smith and Peter Handscomb. Their seamers — Starc, Hazlewood and Jackson Bird — then took three apiece to destroy Pakistan for a mere 142. A confident Smith declared after setting Pakistan 490, a near impossible total or so it seemed.
Azhar Ali, Asad Shafiq and a slew of tail-enders showed just why Pakistan is the most unpredictable team in the world by nearly pulling off an astounding chase. They came as close as 450 before running out of batsmen but the game proved to be an excellent advertisement for pink ball cricket.
Scorecard: Australia 429 (Smith 130, Handscomb 105, Riaz 4/89) & 202/5decl (Khawaja 74) beat Pakistan 142 ( Sarfraz 59, Hazlewood 3/22) & 450 (Shafiq 137, Starc 4/119)