South Africa, New Zealand, Pakistan and Sri Lanka have been confirmed as Australia’s opponents for the 2016-17 summer, but the fate of a proposed day-night Test in Adelaide remains clouded.
Cricket Australia will continue efforts to persuade South Africa that the third Test of their upcoming series at the Adelaide Oval should be played under lights using a pink ball, with the visitors yet to agree to the timing of the match.
CA today released the men's international schedule for the 2016-17 Australian summer with up to 41 days of international cricket across all formats scheduled, including six Test matches.
South Africa and Pakistan will each play a three-Test series against the home side – the first Test against Pakistan confirmed as a day-night match at the Gabba – and Pakistan will also play a series of five one-day internationals in January.
The third Test against South Africa has been confirmed to be hosted at Adelaide, but it is not yet certain it will be a day-night fixture, with South Africa’s players reportedly unwilling to face the pink ball.
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The Black Caps will tour in early December for a three-match ODI series to defend the Chappell-Hadlee Trophy, the matches scheduled in between the South Africa and Pakistan Test series'. And three T20 matches against Sri Lanka have been pencilled in for mid-February but venues are yet to be confirmed.
Proteas yet to accept pink-ball Test
Australia and New Zealand took part in the first-ever day-night Test last November, the match declared an enormous success by administrators after more than 123,000 fans streamed through the gates of the Adelaide Oval across three days and an average of two million fans watched on television.
Pakistan had no hesitation in agreeing to a day-night Test in Brisbane in December, but the Proteas are yet to commit.
South Africa's reluctance stems from the fact none of their players have played with a pink ball under lights, while Australia's players have the experience of last summer's Test and several day-night Sheffield Shield matches in recent years.
The third Test has been confirmed for 24-28 November in Adelaide, but it remains to be seen if it will be played with a pink ball or a traditional red ball during the day.
CA CEO James Sutherland said he would continue to work with Cricket South Africa with a view to ensuring the Test is a day-night contest.
"There is enormous expectation that we deliver another pink-ball Test match this summer in Adelaide," said Sutherland.
"Understandably, there is some concern from the South African players, but day-night Test cricket is all about the fans and a day-night match in Adelaide will be a bigger Test match crowd than the South African players will have ever experienced.
"The success of Adelaide last year demonstrates the huge potential the day-night format has in revitalising Test cricket all over the world, and it’s for that reason that it is our desire to stage another Test under lights at that venue.
"We believe that having the ability to move matches into the evenings provides cricket fans with greater access to the game, both at the ground and at home on TV, and there is no doubt that this will help grow interest in Test cricket.
"Even for cricket fans at home in South Africa there are benefits. The day-night Test hours will allow the match to be televised in a far more attractive time of day in South Africa."
A day Test in Adelaide would start at 2am South African time, while a day-night Test would start at 5.30am, making viewing much more palatable.
Despite the possibility of playing a day-night tour match leading into the Test, as NZ did last year, the Proteas believe a pink-ball Test would hand the Australians a significant advantage.
"Our players are not in favour of playing the game under those conditions," Tony Irish, the head of South Africa's Players' Association, told News Ltd.
"The main reason is we feel disadvantaged. Not one of our players who will compete in that Test has played Test match cricket or any cricket with a pink ball.
"The reluctance to play is a sign of how much importance the South African players place on the series against Australia."
The Proteas have won their past two Test series in Australia, in 2008-09 and 2012-13.
Gabba to host day-night Test
In another major change to the international summer, the first Test will not be played at the Gabba for the first time in 13 years, with the WACA Ground in Perth to host the Proteas from November 3.
While the Gabba has lost the opening Test of the summer, it will host the first of the Pakistan series, Brisbane’s maiden day-night Test to be held on December 15-19.
The Test will mark the 85th anniversary of the first Test played at the Gabba and will be take place at the start of the school holiday period in an effort to maximise crowd attendances.
"We believe that Queensland’s climate really lends itself to Test cricket in day-night conditions, making for a great fan experience," Sutherland said.
"Pakistan should be applauded for committing to and supporting the day-night Test initiative
"Their current bowling line up will put our batsmen to the test and I have no doubt this will be their major strength in the series.
"Day-night Test cricket, combined with this attack, will promise fans an exciting spectacle and we look forward to seeing a packed Gabba to welcome them."
Since becoming a regular Test venue in the 1970s, the Gabba has more often than not hosted the opening Test of the international summer and Australia have built an imposing record there having not lost since 1988.
Perth has been used as an alternative venue for the first Test a number of times, notably between 1981 and 1985 when the WACA was the scene of the summer’s first Test against Pakistan (twice), England and the West Indies respectively.
Perth was also preferred for the summer’s first Test when New Zealand toured in 1989-90 and again in 1993-94, and for Zimbabwe’s sole Test series (to date) in Australia in 2003-04.
Adelaide hosted the first Test of the 2014-15 summer, but that was due to a late change in the schedule following the sudden passing of Australia batsman Phillip Hughes.
Pakistan will also play in the traditional Boxing Day and New Year's Tests in Melbourne and Sydney respectively before a five-match ODI series that will conclude with an Australia Day clash in Adelaide.
The ODIs will be followed by the three-match KFC T20INTL Series against Sri Lanka on February 17, 19 and 22.
Chappell-Hadlee series returns to Australia
The Test summer will be separated by an ODI series for the first time since 2007-08, the three-match Chappell-Hadlee Trophy series against NZ to be played in Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne on December 4, 6 and 9.
It's the first time the Trophy will be contested in Australia since 2008-09 and is part of a commitment last year between the two nations to stage six ODI series over a four-year-period.
The two sides will play a return leg in New Zealand in early 2017.
New Zealand are the current holders of the Trophy having won the three-match series in NZ 2-1 earlier this year. Both nations have won 12 Chappell-Hadlee matches since the concept was introduced in 2004.
South Africa to play a Test in Hobart for the first time
Following the opening Test of the summer in Perth, Australia and South Africa will travel to Hobart for the second Test on November 12-16.
It will be the first time the Proteas have played a Test at Blundstone Arena and just the second time they've played an international against Australia in Tasmania following a ODI between the two sides in 2009.
After 15,343 fans watched Australia thrash the West Indies inside three days in Hobart last summer, Sutherland is hopeful the prospect of a more competitive contest between the current first- and third-ranked Test nations will entice locals to attend.
"We have worked very closely with Cricket Tasmania to provide some certainty over match content for the coming years, which we hope will grow interest and demand for attending international matches at Blundstone Arena, which is now a truly world-class venue," Sutherland said.
"This year’s match between Australia and South Africa presents a great opportunity for Tasmanian cricket fans to see two of the world’s great teams in action. We know how much Tasmanians love their cricket and we hope to see them in full force for this great fixture.
"This is a vital match for Australia and we know that the team will want to see a big turnout from Tasmanians to support them."
Men's International Schedule, 2016-17
Commonwealth Bank Test Series v South Africa 3 – 7 November: WACA Ground, Perth 12 – 16 November: Blundstone Arena, Hobart 24 – 28 November: Adelaide Oval, Adelaide
Victoria Bitter One Day International Series v New Zealand 4 December: SCG, Sydney 6 December: Manuka Oval, Canberra 9 December: MCG, Melbourne
Commonwealth Bank Test Series v Pakistan 15 – 19 December: Gabba, Brisbane (Day-Night Test) 26 – 30 December: MCG, Melbourne 3 – 7 January: SCG, Sydney
Victoria Bitter One Day International Series v Pakistan 13 January: Gabba, Brisbane 15 January: MCG, Melbourne 19 January: WACA, Perth 22 January: SCG, Sydney 26 January: Adelaide Oval, Adelaide
KFC T20INTL Series v Sri Lanka 17 February: venue TBD 19 February: venue TBD 22 February: venue TBD
Tickets to the 2016-17 international summer of cricket will go on sale from 31 May 2016. For priority access and a 20 per cent discount on gold and platinum seats, fans are encouraged to sign up to the Australian Cricket Family at www.cricket.com.au/acf before Sunday 22 May 2016. Membership is free.
Cricket Australia Official Hospitality is now on sale for the 2016-17 international season. New for 2016-17 is a family lounge that means guests can enjoy world-class cricket hospitality with the whole family. For more information visit www.cricket.com.au/hospitality