Such was the anticipation for the first day-night Test in cricket history, more than three hours before the start of play, the queue outside the South Gate of the Adelaide Oval already stretched all the way to the Torrens footbridge.
Australia v New Zealand isn’t usually a fixture to get the heart racing – at least when it comes to cricket – but anticipation was high for this historical break with the 148-year-old tradition of preserving the five-day variety of the game as a daytime-only affair.
Showing up early to get a good seat is a familiar enough ritual for the diehards there at 10.30am for a 2pm start, but the unfamiliar timing injected a sense of freshness to the occasion.
Brandon Korner, 18, thought the later starting time was a brilliant way to allow people to be able to attend a couple of sessions of the game after work.
Wearing his umpire’s hat however – Korner officiates Under-14s and Under-16s around Adelaide – he was concerned that there could be some bad calls made if the controversial pink ball proved hard to see, but still felt it a better option than the white ball used in day-night one-day games.
“The umpires would lose the sight of the ball in the white uniforms of the players,” he said.
For more than 40 years, Margaret Hone, 64, has been making the trip over from Canberra with her South Australian husband, Ian, 67, to queue up for the Adelaide Test at 7.30 in the morning.
She used to go with the whole family, but that’s a bit harder now her children have grown up and moved away to far-flung locations like Canada and Mongolia. Hone described herself as a “traditionalist” and is wary of the potential problems posed by the day-night format.
“I’m concerned the cricketers won’t be able to see the pink ball,” she said. “Will it spoil the game?”
Nevertheless she rather judiciously refused to condemn the ball further until she witnessed it in action. “Until I see it in play it’s not fair to criticise,” she said.
Anticipation for how it would all work wasn’t limited to the punters – Glenn McGrath had some special reasons to appreciate the colour of the ball.
The Australian cricket great told Guardian Australia the pink colour could potentially play to the advantage of the bowler, but that he welcomed the change on another level as well.
McGrath has done more than anyone to put pink into cricket as part of his fundraising strategy for the breast cancer-focused McGrath Foundation named in honour of his late wife, Jane.
Gesturing at his salmon shirt, he noted he doesn’t go too far these days without a bit of pink on him.
“Obviously we have the Sydney Test which we call the Pink Test,” he said of the occasion that sees fans deck themselves out in the colour and players using pink equipment. “Every year that goes past there’s more and more pink in cricket.”
Guardian Australia noted the nearby hawker selling copies of the cricket program had decided to dub today the Pink Test as part of his sales pitch, to which McGrath joked he better go have a chat with him.
After New Zealand captain Brendan Mcullum won the toss and elected to bat, it appeared McGrath’s prediction of extra help for the bowlers would come to pass.
It didn’t take long for the first man to fall to the pink ball, and it was Blackcaps opener Martin Guptil who scored just one run before becoming the answer to a future trivia question in being trapped lbw by Australian quick Josh Hazelwood.
The rest of the session would yield just one more wicket for the Australians, however, and 80 runs for the Kiwis.
As for the first time the end of the first session brought on a tea break instead of lunch, the crowd’s excitement at glimpsing Test cricket’s future was tempered by a sudden reminder of the game’s recent past – an audio-visual tribute to the late Australian batsman Phillip Hughes, who died a year ago after having been struck on the head while batting.