Marnus Labuschagne was ejected from what proved to be the last delivery of a dismal day at the SCG, as discussion about pausing play due to poor lighting resurfaced. Usman Khawaja claimed he was continually “chirping” to the on-field umpires about the dwindling visibility as dark clouds ringed the SCG from the north-west and the ground’s blazing light towers essentially converted the first day of the third NRMA Insurance Test into a day-nighter.
Khawaja engaged in some joking with square leg umpire Paul Reiffel about the approaching darkness just before lunch, as light rain started to fall and South Africa used spin bowling from both ends to attempt to keep players on the field. But Khawaja did not go to such extensive efforts to call attention to the encompassing darkness as his batting partner Marnus Labuschagne, who made frantic signals to Australia’s dressing room for a cigarette lighter during the opening hour of play.
Marnus’s last-ball dismissal
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As events unfolded, Labuschagne was not implying that he need artificial light to see the dark red ball flying towards him, but rather that he needed to make some quick repairs to the dislodged ‘frills’ beneath the top of his batting helmet, which further impeded his vision. “I carry one (lighter) in my bag now since I only wear one helmet for short leg (fielding) and when I bat, the fellas tossing my helmet at short leg aren’t as careful. “So the top of my helmet, the frills, fall, and that gets in the way of my vision.
“I should have done it before going up to bat, but as soon as I got there, I glanced around and spotted it right immediately, particularly with the lights on. It was quite unpleasant, so I simply attempt to burn it off. While Labuschagne’s request for a lighter had nothing to do with the darkness problem, Khawaja jokingly asked Fox Cricket during a drinks break if they had a “glow-in-the-dark ball” they could make available for usage.
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The shenanigans, however, obscured a more serious issue, as umpires Reiffel and Chris Gaffaney engaged in a day-long battle to balance the desire of 31,264 paying spectators and many times more television viewers to see some cricket with the reality that the lack of luster made it difficult to see anything. The fact is that it has to be safe, and with two fast-bowling teams, you can’t be out there when it’s too dark “After a day in which he was dismissed from what proved to be the last delivery before umpires considered it too gloomy to continue, Labuschagne remarked.
Of course, we want to entertain a large audience, but that doesn’t always happen. Labuschagne had more cause than most to be dissatisfied with the erratic character of the day, in which poor lighting proved more difficult than continuous rain. After surviving a disputed slip catch – South Africa’s Simon Harmer claimed to have neatly grabbed the low chance until a long review process ruled otherwise – he and Khawaja then waited almost two and a half hours for conditions to clear enough for play to resume.
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Then, when he did re-scratch his guard and face pace duo Marco Jansen and Anrich Nortje, he defended 21 of the 24 deliveries thrown down (Khawaja faced just two balls after the restart) before being nicked off. The umpires felt it was dark at that moment and called the game off before replacement hitter Steve Smith faced a pitch. Quite frustrated,” Labuschagne remarked after the day when asked how his otherwise notable innings of 79 had ended.
It always irritates you as a hitter when you are out and everyone walks off the field with you. It makes you think about that particular ball, which was presumably beneath the light meter (reading) and escaping. But, at the end of the day, he (Nortje) bowled a very excellent set there and then followed it up with four or five balls in the same position, and that one picked.
It was dark
There were places out there where it was incredibly dark, particularly before lunch, and they couldn’t turn on the lights because it took 10 minutes (for floodlights to warm up). The red ball simply doesn’t stand out under the lights. So it’s pretty difficult, and I believe it’s more hazardous for the fielders because you can’t see it square of the wicket and in the slips, while the batters have a sightscreen and a white backdrop to give themselves the greatest opportunity.
The mix of umpiring regulations and climatic fluctuations bordered on the ridiculous at moments, as the grandstands gradually emptied of fans bored of gazing at an empty playing field. When the rain showers subsided and the forecast improved somewhat, the umpires set 3.45 pm as the start time for the game. However, when both teams gathered boundary-side, ready for the clock to strike the allotted starting time, officials reviewed their light meters and determined that circumstances had worsened, necessitating a return to their respective changing rooms.
The not-out batting combination had already beaten a retreat inside by the time South Africa’s playing group glanced up from their tight team huddle to figure out what was going on. In contrast to the intensity he showed with the dark red ball in hand, Nortje voiced pity for those who were affected by having to contend with quick bowling in the ring. He did, however, note that it was not always opposing hitters.”It’s challenging because it was pretty dark at times,” Nortje remarked after the day, with Australia leading 2-147 and the SCG pitch already showing signs of major spin.
“It’s not only the batting team; fielders are also unable to pick up the ball in some sections of the field. Coming off while it’s dark is the best option. It’s not up to us what and how it should be, but at some point, it may become a little dangerous if the ball is a little harder and you’re going in with two people bowling swiftly. It’s simply a matter of safety and fairness.”