Australia set for day-night Ashes
Australia likely to host the first day-night Ashes Test next summer, with the Gabba set to return to the season's opening slot
1 December 2016, 09:10 AM AEST
The Gabba is reportedly set to return to its prized position of hosting the opening Test of the Australian summer, with a first-ever day-night Ashes Test also tipped to be in the schedule for next season.
The return to Brisbane for the first Test is a move that is certain to sit well with Steve Smith and his team. The Gabba has an imperious record as Australia's season-opening fortress: the team have not lost a Test at the venue since 1988.
Adelaide is favoured to host the first-ever day-night Ashes Test, with England agreeing in principle, according to reports in Fairfax. The move would follow a second successful pink-ball affair last month, although the schedule is yet to be official confirmed by Cricket Australia.
A Cricket Australia spokesperson said negotiations to complete another hectic international schedule were ongoing.
"Piecing together the summer schedule is a complex task. In 2017-18 England will tour for a men's and women's Ashes series and then compete in limited-overs matches. We expect to be in a position to announce this schedule over the coming months once agreements are in place," the spokesperson said.
"The concept of day-night Test cricket is to put fans first and make the game more accessible for people to come after work or school. More than 125,000 people attended the third Commonwealth Bank day-night Test match in Adelaide this year and there has been great anticipation about future day-night Tests.
"We have two day-night Tests this year and ongoing scheduling of day-night Tests in the Australian summer is a natural progression. The Ashes is a great contest and attracts huge audiences both at the ground and on television, but nothing has yet been confirmed for next summer."
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A day-night Ashes Test has long been on CA's agenda, with chief executive James Sutherland putting it on the agenda back in January this year when he first said that a day-night Ashes would be a "natural progression" of the historic series.
With a proliferation of pink-ball Test cricket, player attitudes have been changing over time to embrace the game and the unique challenges of playing a five-day format under lights.
South Africa's players initially baulked at the idea of a day-night Test, but ultimately agreed, with fast bowler Kyle Abbott saying in Adelaide last week the effects of playing under lights were overblown.
Australia captain Steve Smith earlier this year said his personal preference was to keep the Ashes as day-only games.
"I think it works pretty well with the red ball. It's been around for years and I think playing against England we always get the viewers and the crowds out," Smith said in June.
"So I don't think there is any issue there. But I guess we'll just have to wait and see what happens."
Following Australia's victory in Adelaide last week – giving the team two wins from two starts under lights – Smith paid tribute to the format and said it had been embraced by fans and players.
England skipper Alastair Cook has also said he would prefer to play day-only Ashes Tests, with England yet to play a pink-ball Test. They are scheduled to host their first against the West Indies next August.
Confident in the players increasingly warming to the concept, Sutherland has remained steadfast.
"I think there's a natural progression for us to get to a point where Ashes Test matches are played as day-night games," Sutherland said in June.
"The Ashes series is still a long way off and we want get through this summer first, but we will play somewhere between zero and two day-night Tests during the Ashes in (2017-18).
"I respect the views of Steven and Alastair … the Ashes is a great contest and will no doubt attract a huge audience both at the grounds and on television, but the facts of the matter are by playing day-night Tests, we're going to get even bigger audiences at the game and on television."
Australia moved away from hosting the season-opening Test in Brisbane this year, with the WACA Ground preferred in a complicated schedule featuring two three-Test series, including a day-night match against South Africa (which Australia won in Adelaide) and the forthcoming series-opener against Pakistan in Brisbane.
The previous Ashes on Australian soil saw a Mitchell Johnson inspired home side demolish the hosts with the third whitewash in Ashes history.
Australia then relinquished their hold on the urn in 2015 in England, with big victories at Lord's and The Oval soured by defeats at Cardiff, Edgbaston and Trent Bridge – where Australia was infamously bowled out for 60.
Details around fixtures, including tour matches and limited-overs contests, and ticketing will not be available until the formal schedule announcement by CA.
Ashes 2017-18 provisional itinerary
First Test: November 23-27, Brisbane Second Test: December 2-6, Adelaide Third Test: December 14-18, Perth Fourth Test: December 26-30, Melbourne Fifth Test: January 4-8, 2018, Sydney * Schedule yet to be confirmed
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