Friday, 4 March 2011

Day night

greatest cricketer
that ever lived
In a moment of quiet repose yesterday following his celebration of the Irish victory over England, Fantasy Bob reflected on the fact that it was on this day 3 March in 1803 that Ludwig van Beethoven published his world famous Moonlight Sonata or, to give it its snappy official name Piano Sonata No. 14 in C minor "Quasi una fantasia", op. 27, No. 2

The first movement (adagio sostenuto) is the world famous bit and has made a powerful impression on many listeners; for instance,  French composer and lower order bat Hector Berlioz said of it that it 'is one of those poems that human language does not know how to qualify.'  Observers have frequently said the same of FB's bowling action.

Beethoven was of course unfamiliar with the day night match, the candle power of his day rarely having the luminescence to allow batsmen to face fast bowling with confidence.  Moonlight was his imaginative proposal to improve on that situation but he failed to persuade the cricketing authorities of its merits and cricket under anything but sunlight did not develop for many years.

FB notes that the history books suggest that following Beethoven's experiments it wasn't until 11 August 1952 that the first cricket match to be played under floodlights took place.  This was at the heathen temple of Highbury Stadium and was between Middlesex County Cricket Club and Arsenal Football Club. FB can find no record of the return football fixture being played at Lords. A public announcement was made advising spectators to 'Keep your eye on the ball, when you see it coming keep low. The batsmen will try to keep it down but they can't promise.'  A similar announcement should be made during CWC and IPL matches.
But the first serious dabbling with floodlit games was during the breakaway World Series under Kerry Packer.  The powers that be looked down on this innovation.  But once the dust had settled the first official first floodlit One Day International was played in 1979 between Australia and W Indies.  And it has built from there.  Flood-lit first-class cricket was first played in 2010, and there are hopes that Test cricket can be played under floodlights in the future.  In England, opposition to this new fangled thinking lived long, not only was there lingering hostility towards Packer's World Series Cricket, but in contrast to Australia and South Africa, where twilight is minimal, and the light fades quickly, the long English evenings meant that the floodlights would only be required for the last hour or so of a match.  But come T20, come moolah,  come floodlights and all that painful resistance disappeared. There have been attempts to use the floodlights in Tests when bad light would stop play but these have been unconvincing - play seems to stop anyway and FB doesn't quite understand what the point is.

In Scotland the light fades even slower and Fantasy Bob's experience of day-night cricket confirm that floodlights seem an unnecessary luxury.  There is a virtue and a skill in batting in the gloaming and in the dark.  Evening T20s which start off in bright sunlight frequently finish in total darkness.  Traditionally the bowling side will choose the darkest ball from their bag, one that blends well into the background trees and bushes.  But this is only another minor challenge to the true cricketer.  One of FB's most celebrated innings came when the gathering gloom was further dimmed by the mist drifting in as the temperature dropped.  In a highly competitive match with FB facing the last over, 11 runs were required.  Well, dear reader,  KP might have appealed the light if he could have seen where the umpire was, but FB is made of sterner stuff.  FB and partner got them with FB smashing 3 off the last ball.   Did his eagle eye pick up the ball from the bowler's hand and track it against the blackness behind?  Or was it just a hopeful swing?  We shall never know, but the ball screamed off the bat past the astonished bowler with 4 written all over it.  Until it was held up in the heavy dew in the grass.  So the 3 had to be run - always an adventure.  Now that is day night cricket as it should be played.

Not a hint of ODI
Day night concepts are a reversal of the cinematic nuit américaine techniques used to simulate a night scene; such as using tungsten-balanced rather than daylight-balanced film stock or special blue filters and also under-exposing the shot (usually in post-production) to create the illusion of darkness or moonlight.  Infrared movie film was used to achieve an equivalent look with black and white film.  The title of François Truffaut's film Day for Night is a reference to this technique, not an indication that the film captures the drama of a closely contested ODI.  In fact this film has no cricket references at all but deals with a committed film director struggling to complete his movie while coping with a myriad of crises, personal and professional, among the cast and crew.  Greatly enjoyable.

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