In the swim: Jackson Bird, former Olympic swimmer Stephanie Rice, Nathan Lyon and Chadd Sayers pose at the pool deck. Photo: Glenn Hunt, Cricket AustraliaIf this was a day when the Gabba went on trial for its cricketing life, the defence was compelling.
The first day of the first day-night Test may have sealed its fate for subsequent non-Ashes summers, with strong crowds on the back of perfect weather ensuring the latest pink-ball experiment could be declared an early success.
More than 20,000 fans filled the ground early on Thursday as Australia ventured out against Pakistan. Shunted down the pecking order in Cricket Australia’s new-look schedule, at last there were signs of life in Brisbane after years of criticism for poor crowds.
The Gabba was stripped of its traditional role as the opening Test of the summer. That honour went to Perth, which in turn faced the same struggles Brisbane had in the past when trying to fill the stands so early in the year and outside of holidays.
Brisbane had already been granted the first Ashes Test next year, much to the appreciation of the players, who still consider this a venue that can jolt touring teams more than any other. Australia hasn’t lost a Test here since 1988.
Outside of that, where the Gabba would fit in the summer schedule remained up in the air. In the face of more calls for Sydney or Melbourne to be granted more than one Test, Cricket Australia hoped its roll of the dice with a day-night fixture would return a winner.
Early signs looked overwhelmingly positive. With clear skies on a blazing summer day, there was the unmistakable feel that it was the first day of the cricketing summer proper, even though Adelaide’s day-night Test has rightly been declared a rousing success.
A temporary pool was put in place, with champion Olympic swimmer Stephanie Rice on lifeguard duties. In the middle, adopted Queenslander Matt Renshaw produced a quality 71 in his second Test to quench the cricketing thirst of the locals.
Day-night Tests remain an acquired taste among some of the players, with the prospect of two each non-Ashes summer unlikely to appeal to those who feel the format changes the very fabric of the game.
Mitchell Johnson, Australia’s former pace spearhead, was on Thursday railing against the prospect of even one day-night Test on an Ashes tour, with Adelaide set to retain that fixture next year against the English.
But money speaks in volumes and whirring turnstyles will go a long way to encourage Cricket Australia to lock in Brisbane as the second pink-ball venue on years of split tours, even if the absence – so far – of the familiar summer storms can be put down to good luck rather than good management.
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