Friday Night Lights at the Basin gains impetus

Domestic cricket jigsaw unsolved

MARK GEENTY
Last updated 05:00 08/05/2012
Basin Reserve
KENT BLECHYNDEN/Fairfax NZ

LIGHTING UP: Could temporary lights soon join the Basin Reserve backdrop as New Zealand Cricket look to host Friday night Twenty20 matches at the iconic ground next season?

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Friday night Twenty20 cricket under temporary floodlights at the Basin Reserve could move a step closer as New Zealand Cricket meets tomorrow to discuss proposed changes to its domestic schedule.

A move to playing T20 matches on Friday nights this season, after Plunket Shield four-dayers from Monday to Thursday, is under discussion between NZC and Sky TV. The broadcaster is keen to fill a gap in its popular Friday night slot after rugby's ITM Cup finishes at the end of October.

It means the T20 competition, which was squeezed between December 18 and January 22 last summer, could start in November and run as long as 10-12 weeks this season. The drawback for major associations would be the cost of securing headline-grabbing imports for such a long period, playing just one T20 game a week.

NZC chief executive David White is meeting with the six major association chief executives in Christchurch tomorrow, with scheduling the main order of business.

"The concept is something we're interested in. We think the market would react favourably to evening cricket at domestic level," Cricket Wellington chief executive Peter Clinton said.

Clinton said he'd already sounded out Westpac Stadium about its availability. But their preference for evening cricket would be the Basin Reserve, which means talking to Basin Reserve Trust and exploring resource consent and costs for temporary floodlights, which have been used for T20 at some English grounds.

"Everyone relates to the Basin so well; whether it's a day game or a night game. We'd still prefer to have our first-class cricket being played at the Basin Reserve."

Clinton and his fellow CEOs were eager to see a draft schedule as soon as possible to begin planning for the season. Player workloads would be an issue under the new proposal, with five consecutive days of cricket then just two days rest before the next Plunket Shield game on Monday. Saturday and Sunday T20 matches were also being explored.

On the import front, Wellington's Sri Lankan spin whiz Muttiah Muralidharan has another year to run on his contract. Clinton contacted Murali's management in recent days and was waiting to hear back about his availability for any extended T20 competition.

"It does change the mix of your imports and how your squad might look. We're aware that it might affect our import roster."

Teams may be reduced to flying in big name players around their Australian Big Bash commitments for selected matches, rather than a whole campaign.

The Black Caps will be largely absent for the domestic summer, with a potential window after the tour of South Africa in mid-January, until England's arrival in mid-February. They will be in South Africa for domestic cricket's popular Christmas-New Year period.

Sky spokeswoman Kirsty Way confirmed there were ongoing discussions with NZC but didn't expect any confirmation of schedules or match nights for several weeks. "While there are a number of different options being discussed, Friday night T20 is one of them," Way said.

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Meanwhile, Clinton has spoken to Firebirds coach Jamie Siddons about reports of a potential role with the Black Caps. Siddons is the early favourite to succeed John Wright in August, having previously been sounded out by NZC's director of cricket John Buchanan to coach the one-day side.

"Jamie is committed at the moment to the Firebirds and even though he's on leave he's currently contributing to some early season planning. But, as he's intimated to us before, international coaching in some format is still attractive to him."

- The Dominion Post

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