Dubai:A four-day match starting Monday in Abu Dhabi will use pink balls as part of a bid by the ICC and officials governing the laws of cricket to eventually play the five-day Test format under lights to arrest its declining popularity.
The Marylebone Cricket Club, which formulates the laws for the governing body, will play Durham under flood lights. The match is traditionally staged at Lord's as the season-opening game in England.
White balls, used in One-Day Internationals instead of red ones for Tests and first-class cricket, have failed to retain their color over long stretches of time. Pink balls were recently used as an experiment in Australia but only in limited-overs games.
"The research we undertook showed there was a willingness among fans to attend day-night Test cricket and that was something boards were attracted to," MCC chief executive Keith Bradshaw said on Sunday.
"All the reports that came back on the pink ball were very encouraging. But the proof will be in the pudding, which is over the next few days. If the ball holds its shine and shape and the players are happy, then it's as good a test as any."
Bradshaw, however, refused to indicate when tests could be played under lights.
"We don't want to create any expectations of a time-scale because if there are some issues with the ball, we don't want to push too hard and find we've created expectations we can't fulfill," he said. "But I would like to think that if the tests go well and the ball stacks up that we could implement this fairly quickly."
Bangladesh is due to travel to England for two tests from May 27 to June 8 and authorities had initially hoped the tour would feature the first day-night test. But Bradshaw said that is unlikely to now happen.
"That would be very difficult now," Bradshaw said. "People are buying tickets with the expectations that it's a day test."
The captain of Durham and MCC both said they are unsure what to expect from the pink ball test.
"Like anything that is new, we are excited about this," MCC skipper Alex Gidman said. "I don't know about the ball, but the concept of playing four-day cricket under floodlights is one that is exciting. It is worth a shot."
Durham captain Will Smith agreed.
"It will be a great occasion," he said. "I was slightly skeptical at first, but it's a great opportunity for the guys to go out there and experience something different."