AS Australians honoured the memory of Phil Hughes on the first anniversary of his death, his former team-mates ensured a crowd of almost 50,000 went home happy as the opening day of the first day-night Test proved a success both on and off the field for the hosts in Adelaide.
Cricket Australia has been applauded for the history-making initiative in the build-up as a means to promote flagging interest in the long-form game, but actions on the field of play were always set to speak louder than the words of administrators.
Fears over the way the pink ball would behave, on its debut at this level, were not completely disproved but the contest between bat and ball never appeared compromised despite 12 wickets falling in total.
New Zealand were bundled out just as the Adelaide Oval lights warmed into full beam for 202, owing mainly to Australia’s effectiveness with the ball, before Steve Smith’s men responded by reaching the 9.30pm close at 54-2.
Five wickets fell in the evening session, which followed Test cricket’s first 40-minute dinner break, during which the crowd noticeably swelled as fans from Adelaide’s nearby central business district made the short walk across the River Torrens for the final two hours of play.
Their reward was to see Peter Siddle claim his 200th Test wicket – the 15th Australian to do so – and the home bowlers mop up the final three Black Caps wickets.
That left Australia with 22 overs to face under the lights and they lost the key wicket of David Warner in the fourth over when Trent Boult got him to chase a delivery that left him.
Any fears that might prompt a clatter of wickets in the foreign conditions were proved unfounded as Australia settled, losing only Joe Burns when he was bowled by Doug Bracewell off an inside edge.
Captain Smith was again the steady hand to be unbeaten on 24, with veteran Adam Voges alongside him on nine.
Both were applauded from the field by a sated crowd of 47,441 – only a few thousand less than the total number of fans who attended the opening four days of the first Test of the series in Brisbane.
A day of firsts began with Mitchell Starc delivering the first ball of the ground-breaking match to Martin Guptill.
Josh Hazlewood then earned the honour of the first wicket, trapping Guptill lbw for one, but Australia made their move in the second session when they claimed three wickets in the space of 11 balls. Wicketkeeper Peter Nevill caught all three from three different bowlers.
Tom Latham got a thick edge to spinner Nathan Lyon, after reaching his half-century, before Siddle found appreciable seam movement to find the edge of Ross Taylor – the double-centurion from the previous drawn Test in Perth.
New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum followed when an aggressive cut was edged behind off Starc, whose day ended prematurely due to an ankle injury that has long troubled the left-armer.
Starc had claimed 3-24 before he was forced off, including a searing yorker to trap Kane Williamson lbw, as his exit provide about the only sour note of a history-making day for Australia.
Following the death of Hughes, who was struck on the neck just below the helmet while playing for New South Wales in Sydney 12 months ago, wearing helmets will be mandatory for professional cricketers in England and Wales from next season.
The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) has announced the changes, following a joint review with the Professional Cricketers’ Association (PCA), which will see male and female professional players required to use helmets which meet the latest British Safety Standard.
Former England and Somerset wicketkeeper-batsman Craig Kieswetter was also forced to retire from the game after he was struck in the face by a bouncer while playing in the County Championship in 2014.
The regulation change will apply to batsmen facing all types of bowling, wicketkeepers standing up to the wicket and fielders closer than eight yards from the batsman’s middle stump, except behind the wicket on the off side.
ECB chief medical officer Dr Nick Peirce said that the ruling was “a major step forward” that “will help make first-class cricket safer as well as sending a strong message to the recreational game about the importance of helmet safety”.
The ECB has recommended that recreational cricketers follow the new helmet regulations, while the use of protective headgear is already mandatory for all under-18s within the recreational game.