Australia v New Zealand – Adelaide Test: The New is Old is New again

 Third Test, Australia v New Zealand, Adelaide Oval, 27-29 November 2015

The day/night test cricket match, held in Adelaide from 27 November 2015 was ‘new’, in that it was the first official test match to be played well into the night.  But it was also old, in that the idea was tried as long ago as the 1970’s during World Series Cricket!  The concept of watching test cricket on primetime TV in eastern Australia was a key driver in pushing this initiative, which is old in that it already happens when tests are played in Perth, but it was new for it to happen in Adelaide and under artificial lights. To make this occur there was plenty of experimentation in developing a new, pink ball, which would be easier to see at night than the old red ball.  Old experiments used yellow and orange balls before deciding on the pink option being best for fans and TV viewers.

We travelled from Melbourne to watch Day 2 of the game.  We’d visited the old Adelaide Oval, which was a Cricket Oval, for a one-dayer in 2009, but hadn’t been back since.  The new Adelaide Oval is a Stadium, and we had purchased tickets for seats which cost twice as much as tickets to allow us in to sit on a picnic blanket on a patch of grass.  That being said, the views were impressive, and the facilities very good.  The ground was full of people in clothing branded with names of Victorian AFL teams and Cricket clubs.  Victorians coming to Adelaide for the test match is an old tradition!

Shaun Marsh is not old in cricket terms, but he is far from new, coming back into the side for a sixth time.  There was much debate about whether he had earned his spot in the side when his performances were compared to others. Some argued Michael Klinger should play, others said he was old (but he’s younger than Voges, who is still considered a new member of the team).  A batsman who is low on confidence, not backing himself and getting out as a result is not new, and so it was when a stuttering Marsh was run out by McCullum early on Day 2.

Peter Nevill is reasonably new as Australia’s wicketkeeper, and his glovework has been solid since taking on the role.  On Saturday he showed his skill with the bat, holding together the Australian tail as the chase of New Zealand’s total began to falter.  Batting collapses are old.  This newest one saw Australia plunge to 8-116.

When Nathan Lyon was batting and appeared to have been caught, he was given not out, so New Zealand had no hesitation in seeking a review of the decision. The Decision Review System is still reasonably new. Is the old principle of “give the Batsman the Benefit of the Doubt” still active? After four minutes of reviews they were still looking at replays.  If you have that much doubt after all that time, surely you favour the batsman? Eventually they did, even though there appeared to be some deviation of the ball, and a ‘hotspot’ suggesting contact with the bat was made, but not where the ball would hit, and with no noise indicating ball had clipped bat.

Technology is new, but human frailty is as old as time.  As it was with the third umpire, so it was with the men in the field, as New Zealand lost their way a little.  Previously tight spin bowling became loose, allowing Lyon and Nevill and take control of the game back.

In old times, Shane Warne said Mitch Starc was soft.  The less said about the “new” Warney, the better.  Mitch Starc had broken his foot the day before, and still hobbled out to the middle to try and gather some more runs for his side.  In pain, he limped singles, before unloading some thumping boundaries.  Soft?  I don’t think so.  In the opening session, McCullum was praised for his captaincy using two spinners to great effect.  After continuing to bowl spinners to an injured Starc and watching the ball hit just over the head of fieldsmen (who had been placed in no-man’s-land halfway between pitch and boundary), you may argue that his captaincy significantly contributed to the additional runs provided by the DRS non-decision.

The style of metronomic fast bowling at the top of off stump is old.  It was what we were taught in juniors long ago – model yourself on Alderman, and then later, like McGrath.  With Johnson retired and Starc injured, Australia relied on Josh Hazlewood to lead the attack.  His early wickets in the New Zealand second innings were crucial in consolidating Australia’s advantage.  He was well supported by Mitch Marsh, who was making up for a poor batting performance with a very good bowling spell.  The search for a true all-rounder in the Australian XI is an old one, and it continues.

On the Sunday we had to head to the airport to go home.  Fortunately we could watch the game on TV – live coverage against the gate is not actually all that old.  Among a crowd enjoying drinks while waiting for their flights, we nervously watched NZ make the ball move about and cause trouble for the Aussie batsmen.  NZ bowling well is old news.  Remember Hobart in 2011, the commentators kept telling us.  Who were they key bowlers then? Bracewell, Boult and Southee, who were on field today.

The phrase “catches win matches” is old, but still relevant.  A huge roar went up amongst the crowd in the airport bar as Santner spilled a catch off Smith.   It was disappointing for him given his impressive debut to that point, but the damage was short lived as Smith soon departed to a ball that looked like it would go over, but DRS agreed with the umpire that it would have taken off the bails.

As soon as we landed in Melbourne we quickly turned the phone on for a score check.  On the way home from the airport we listened to the radio (which is old) for the conclusion.  I also followed along on Twitter (which is new) as Maxwell, Rogers, Nannes and co described Shaun Marsh batting comfortably and leading Australia well on field.  This is not new, but it hasn’t happened often.  Hopefully this gives him the burst of confidence needed to become a regular contributor.

Siddle hit the winning runs, partnered by Mitch Starc who hobbled the winning runs, having not been allowed a runner (which is new).  The game was over in three days, which was not new, and declared a raging success by fans and broadcasters, in stark contrast to the test in India which had also ended in three days but was considered a farce.  There will be a new team on our shores soon, but the series we will truly be looking forward to is the return bout in New Zealand in February.

In the lead up to the test there was talk about playing tests over four days (which is an old idea). Some people talked about how it was sacrosanct that tests be played over five days, even though the length of matches has changed over time, and once included timeless tests.  The match lasted only three days, but was still a great contest. Some said that the change from day to night conditions would disadvantage batsmen, yet much of the poor batting took place in crisp Adelaide daylight.  That being said, changing weather conditions and changing light is not new in cricket.  In fact, the only thing that seems regular in cricket is “change”.   Eight ball overs, uncovered pitches, the size of the bat, the length of the game, and now the colour of the ball are all things which have changed over time.  The older test cricket gets, the newer it becomes?

About Joseph Ryan

Lawyer, amateur sportsman, and full-time sports-watcher. Follows Melbourne Demons and Melbourne Storm and is trying to be better at golf.


  1. Good stuff, Joseph. I rankle at the notion of test cricket as a set in stone tradition. As you have amply shown cricket has frequently changed. Much like the Amish and farming technology people choose to stop at a point and say ‘this is proper and right’ and then legitimise it with the cloak of tradition.

  2. Cheers Dave. There are probably many other changes in tests that I’ve left out too (Introduction of new venues, new nations getting Test status). The game keeps adapting!

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