World Series Cricket saw the evolution of many new concepts that subsequently changed the game forever; from ‘drop-in’ pitches to batting helmets. However, few would argue that the greatest of its revolutions was the ability to play cricket beneath the stars.
A one-off night cricket game had taken place in 1952 and baseball had long been played beneath lights. Night sport offered enhanced mid-week crowds, while the evenings also opened up prime-time television and rich advertising revenue. With still relatively empty grandstands and owning the exclusive television rights to WSC, night cricket offered a tremendous opportunity to Mr. Packer and his teams.
VFL Park in Melbourne was transformed with light towers to turn day into night and white balls would be bowled against black sightscreens. On January 23rd 1978, as the sun dipped over the outer at VFL Park, the lights came alive. The daylight crowd of 8,000 swelled to 20,000 as the Australian and World XI’s took tea and by nightfall the game had changed forever.
A night game in process at VFL Park. While novel the early light towers threw an inferior light making batting and fielding challenging. (Image: Viv Jenkins Collection).
The players in the middle cast multiple shadows from the towers’ lights and in time the night game would evolve further and they would don coloured clothing. World Series Cricket was now gaining critical momentum, but was it enough to break through the walls of the establishment…?