History Made As The Caribbean Hosts Its First Ever Day/Night Test Match

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Kasun Rajitha (L) of Sri Lanka celebrates the dismissal of Shai Hope (R) of West Indies during Day 1 of the 3rd Test between West Indies and Sri Lanka at Kensington Oval, Bridgetown, Barbados, on June 23, 2018. (Photo by Randy Brooks / AFP) (Photo credit should read RANDY BROOKS/AFP/Getty Images)

History Made As The Caribbean Hosts Its First Ever Day/Night Test Match

The Kensington Oval in Bridgetown, Barbados, has seen it’s fair share of histrionics over the years, and today, the 23rd June 2018, it will once again enter the realms of folklore.

It is often referred to as “The Mecca of Cricket” in the Caribbean and has hosted many important matches, both domestic & international in it’s 140 year plus of history. Most prominently, it hosted the final of both World Cups that have taken place in the West Indies, the ODI World Cup in 2007 & the T20 World Cup in 2010, when Australia & England triumphed respectively.

Today, it is about to host the first ever day-night Test match in the region.

Test cricket has been slowly losing popularity in the West Indies over the last 20 years or so, not least among the reasons, the regional team’s average performances in that time. Off-course, it is a world wide trend, as Test match attendances have dwindled in just about every country, as the limited overs formats, especially the T20 in the last decade has taken hold of the cricketing public.

In this day and age, people don’t have the time to sit and watch five days of cricket, no matter how invigorating it may be, when they can go to the stadium, spend three to four hours in the evening to night period and get a result. The fact that day-night cricket had become an option for the longer version of the game, is a direct result of the times, and in particular in the Caribbean.

The very first day-night Test match was between Australia & New Zealand at The Adelaide Oval on the 27th November 2015, and it was a resounding success in terms of attendances. Full houses, raucous & enthusiastic crowd and an exciting match where the home team won by 3 wickets, proved the doubters wrong and showed this maybe one way at least, to raise the popularity of Test match cricket.

There are issues off-course, with not everyone being on board with the use of the pink ball, as opposed to the traditional red one, but with any and every revolutionary idea, there is always going to be obstacles, but those should not take away from the spectacle that the match created and the buzz surrounding the day-night Test around the world.
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Since that historic event in Adelaide two and a half years ago, England, South Africa & New Zealand have all hosted day-night fixtures, and interestingly, the home team has won every time, is that an omen to the West Indies for this weekend I wonder? Pakistan have also played “host” to day-night Test, but these took place in Dubai, due to the ICC’s ban on them having international games in the country.

So, to the match itself, which unfortunately has been dominated by the controversy surrounding the visitors captain Dinesh Chandimal.

Prior to the start of Day 3 in St. Lucia, the Sri Lankan team refused to take the field for the first two hours of scheduled play,  after being accused of tampering with the ball using sweets, a charge that the Sri Lankan skipper categorically denied. Ironically, had they not carried out such a protest, they may have won the match, as they needed 5 more West Indian wickets to win, and bad light & rain delays eventually ended the play.
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Chandimal’s appeal to the ICC’s commissionery board was rejected and his suspension for this third and final match of the series was confirmed. He also incurred 2 suspension points on his record and was fined 100% of his match fee, while a hearing has been set for the 10th of July for the “Code of Conduct” charges against him, coach Chandika Hathurusingha and manager Asanka Gurusinha.

The coach and manager will however, be allowed to take part in the match this weekend.

The series is currently 1-0 in favour off the host after their win at the Queen’s Park Oval in Port-of-Spain, so Sri Lanka will be desperate for an improved performance and also for the weather to hold for the entire 5 days to give them the maximum chance of victory.

In the absence of Chandimal, fast bowler Suranga Lakmal will lead Sri Lanka in this match. Lakmal has been in the Test team since November 2010, making his debut versus this same West Indies team at home and be will calling on all that experience as well as hoping his teammates support him in this match.

For the West Indies, so long in the doldrums of the game’s most traditional format, they will be hoping to close off the series with a win or at the very least not lose this match. They finally seemed to have a settled bowling line-up, with Trinidadian speedster Shannon Gabriel leading the way, ably supported by Kemar Roach & others.

The batting line-up have had their moments, but they still need to be more consistent in converting their starts into big scores if they are to take that next step up in class.

We should be in for an exciting conclusion to this series, so let us put aside all the drama and focus on the match itself, as history is about to be made in this most iconic of venues once again.

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