Stewart takes dim view of England's lights

Alec Stewart might be England's man for all seasons but even he has reservations about batting under floodlights in this country. "I'm all for trying things, but the lights weren't good," he said following England's 52-run victory over Zimbabwe at Edgbaston on Tuesday night.

Alec Stewart might be England's man for all seasons but even he has reservations about batting under floodlights in this country. "I'm all for trying things, but the lights weren't good," he said following England's 52-run victory over Zimbabwe at Edgbaston on Tuesday night.

Stewart, who has played in both of England's day-night matches in the NatWest series (interestingly, neither was a sell-out), has extensive experience of playing under lights in other parts of the world. "We wouldn't have wanted to bat under those lights," Stewart said. "They need to be brighter to compare with those in Australia and South Africa. A couple of Zimbabwe's batsmen said that they had difficulty picking the ball up and I can only agree with them.

"Praise to the England and Wales Cricket Board for trying it, but if we do it again next year, we must make sure they are better."

The ECB was non-committal over Stewart's observation. "These are constructive comments from Alec," the chief executive, Tim Lamb, said, "and we'll be taking them on board when we review the series. Clearly, temporary lights are not as powerful as permanent ones, but it is encouraging that both Edgbaston and Headingley are endeavouring to have lights installed and we'll be giving them our full support."

It costs the ECB £30,000 to hire the lights, of which four are on almost permanent loan throughout the season for one-dayers in the Norwich Union NCL First and Second Division. Six are used for international matches, a clear message to the nation's county cricketers that they are not worth the extra wattage and, presumably, extra cost it takes to have a better view of the white ball.

The move to play floodlit one-day internationals has been a long while coming in England. Australia, through Kerry Packer, invented the genre some 23 years ago and all their Test grounds now have huge banks of floodlights. Over the years, much fine tuning has taken place, but the ECB should have been able to take advantage of Australia's experience, something it appears to have fought shy of, mainly one suspects on the grounds of cost.

So far Sussex are the only county to have erected permanent lights, at a cost of £160,000 two years ago. Compared with the new lights at the Gabba, which cost around a million Australian dollars (£420,000), they are relatively cheap, but only if they do the job properly.

When selling sport to the public, staging costs should not be the guiding factor; rather the aim should be for a balance between commercial pragmatism, public demand and playing conditions that allow players to perform to the best of their ability. While lights remain temporary, many feel the players are being compromised, something that should not be the case today when England play the West Indies at Trent Bridge during daylight hours, the last game before Saturday's final.

With West Indies having failed to win a match, England may give Paul Franks a game on his home ground. With Robert Croft, Vikram Solanki and Matthew Maynard all being sent back to their counties, there are not many changes England can make, though this would be one popular with the folk in Nottingham.

England (from): M E Trescothick, A J Stewart (wkt), G A Hick, N Hussain (capt), G P Thorpe, C White, A Flintoff, M A Ealham, A R Caddick, D Gough, A D Mullally, P J Franks.

West Indies: JC Adams (capt), SL Campbell, BC Lara, C H Gayle, R L Powell, WW Hinds, RD Jacobs (wkt), FA Rose, MV Nagamootoo, M Dillon, RD King.

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