Pakistan chose not to schedule a day-night Test this season because they felt it would hamper their side’s chances against Australia and New Zealand.
This is the first season in three that the PCB, hitherto a keen proponent of the concept, has not staged a day-night Test in Dubai. Indifferent results in the two previous Tests prompted the team management to tell the board to opt against one this time round.
Pakistan won the first Test against West Indies two years ago, but only after a massive scare in the second half of a game they had initially dominated. Their batsmen first collapsed under lights to Devendra Bishoo’s legspin, and then their bowlers struggled to defend 346 in the fourth innings. Last year they lost to Sri Lanka, when their batsmen failed to make over 262 in either innings.
More than the batting, however, the team was concerned about the blunting of their main weapon Yasir Shah, through a combination of dew, the pink ball becoming soft quickly and the pitch not breaking up as much as expected.
Though Yasir has taken 15 wickets in the two day-night Tests, they have come at a higher cost compared to wickets in daytime UAE Tests – 31.00 against 24.75. More critical is the rate at which they have come, a strike rate of 60.7 in the two day-night games as opposed to 51.5 in day Tests.
The board is understood to have canvassed the team as both the PCB and Cricket Australia have pushed the concept of day-night Tests. But based on those on-field concerns, the PCB decided not to pursue the option.
That goes against the grain of most missed chances to play day-night Tests. Generally it is the touring side that has turned down the opportunity to play – and mostly on the basis that they would be unfamiliar, and so uncomfortable, with the conditions. Sri Lanka turned Pakistan down once in 2013, while India and Bangladesh have also refused to play day-night Tests on away tours.
It didn’t help that, unlike the rest of the world, a day-night Test makes little difference to attendances in the UAE. Neither the West Indies Test nor the one last year against Sri Lanka attracted a noticeably bigger crowd.
As has become the norm for Pakistan’s UAE Tests, the ongoing Test has been played out in front of virtually empty stands, enlivened only in pockets by groups of schoolchildren. Free entry for the Tests hasn’t made a difference, though the fact that it is the case is because the PCB, for the first time since 2009, has negotiated a deal whereby it doesn’t pay a hosting fee for a Test. Usually the PCB would pay approximately USD 35,000 plus expenses per Test as a separate cost in the UAE, something it has avoided this season when they play five Tests there.
The fact that the Test began on a Sunday – the start of the UAE working week – is unlikely to have adversely affected that aspect. Sunday starts for Tests are not unusual in any case: the West Indies Test in Sharjah in 2016-17, the England Test at the same venue the year before and the Test against New Zealand in 2014 in Abu Dhabi all began on Sundays. The compressed nature of this tour and season has played some part in this game beginning on Sunday.
According to one board official, the PCB wanted to have a schedule whereby as many of the limited-overs games take place on weekends, though ultimately, of the three T20Is Australia play here, only one is on a weekend. And only two of the six limited-overs games New Zealand play here take place on a weekend.