In mid-August, Surrey secured a dramatic final day victory over Lancashire in the County Championship. While this match represented another major step towards Surrey lifting their first County Championship title for over twenty years, it also represented the completion of a second year in which counties had played day-night, pink ball cricket.
While the introduction of the format in 2017 received a lot of fan-fare, in part by the decision to have all matches take place on the same day and seen as a trial run ahead of an England test match against the West Indies, this year’s matches have blended into the County Championship season without complaint, while free entry after 6pm supported stronger post-work crowds than would have otherwise been the case in normal hours of play between 11am and 6pm.
So with bigger crowds and no-detriment on results, should this be the blue print for the otherwise ailing County Championship? Many will argue against the move, some based on more purist reasons, while others will argue that as a breeding ground for England internationals, to play matches exclusively under lights is not aiding cricketers for the pressures and demands of 5-day test match cricket.
While these arguments may indeed have merit, England’s more recent recruitment choices appear to suggest that the importance of County Championship form is low down on the list of selector priorities, with Jos Buttler and Adil Rashid in particular picked on merit in the white ball format of the game. In addition, in an ever congested fixture calendar, that will only get busier with the advent of the Hundred from 2020, the low income yielding County Championship is likely to feel the biggest pressures, as has been the case in recent years with fixtures now spread across the front and back end of the season to make room for the glitzier showpiece events.
The end solution may well depend on the success of pink-ball cricket in the test match arena, with England only having played a handful of games to date, while other nations have yet to adopt the former due to suitably of conditions. However, with the format likely to be adopted again in 2019 ahead of England’s home Ashes series and the increasing commercialisation of the white ball game, county cricket administrators may be wise to be proactive and embrace the pink ball, as a means of preserving the red-ball game within the English calendar.