THE future of Test match cricket is not about pink balls, floodlights and brutal all-day drinking sessions in the stands.
The future of Test match cricket is about the elite taking on the elite.
It is about fiercely contested rivalry, dizzying fluctuating fortunes and gripping knife-edge contests.
But as darkness descended over Edgbaston and a new era in English cricket dawned, it was clear that England versus West Indies provides none of this.
Sure there was a novelty factor about this first instance of day-night Test cricket on English soil — but novelties soon wear off.
What the public want, at any time of the day or night, is a genuine contest.
Fancy dress and affordable beer as well, of course. But first and foremost, a contest.
West Indies, once the masters of the cricketing universe, have not won a Test match in England since 2000.
Bak in Blue
Eden Hazard and Tiemoue Bakayoko shock contenders to face Spurs after secret 8-0 friendly rout of QPR’s kids
Man United chief Ed Woodward meets Ivan Perisic agent in last-ditch bid to secure Old Trafford move
DRAX THE ONE
Arsenal set to make £32m move for PSG winger Julian Draxler after French club told him he can leave
NO A SHAW THING
Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho could be tempted to offload Luke Shaw to boost transfer funds
GIFT OF THE GAB
Gabriel Paulista arrives at Valencia Airport ahead of completing £10m move from Arsenal to La Liga club
And while it is sad enough that they are nowhere near as good as they used to be, it is sadder still that they are not even as good as they could be.
Most leading Windies players are currently playing Twenty20 cricket in the Caribbean Premier League — which, while more lucrative than the Test game, does not provide the life-changing riches of its Indian counterpart.
That means there’s no Carlos Brathwaite, who memorably clouted Ben Stokes for four consecutive sixes to settle last year’s extraordinary World Twenty20 final.
There’s no Marlon Samuels, whose long-running rivalry with Stokes has more needle than an acupuncture convention. And there is no Chris Gayle, the greatest bar-emptying, six-hitting party animal in modern-day cricket.
And this sorry state of affairs follows on from South Africa’s premier batsman AB De Villiers missing his nation’s Test series against Joe Root’s side.
Test cricket has the capability to be the most complex and fascinating game in the sporting world — yet too many players and administrators are giving it up for dead.
This match is being staged as a day-nighter primarily because the Second Ashes Test in Adelaide in December will also be played under lights and England need practice before the only Test series which genuinely still matters to everybody involved.
In England, Test matches still sell extremely well.
Elsewhere in the world, they do not — and day-nighters are likely to become increasingly common as a way of attracting larger crowds.
With the new 2pm until 9.30pm playing times, England’s toughest tactical decision was arguably deciding what to eat and when.
The answer was a late brunch around midday, beef or salmon for lunch at what used to be tea-time, sandwiches and cake during the tea break at dinner time, followed by a hot dinner at stumps.
Mike Gatting would have loved it. And he would have loved facing a Windies attack incapable of rearranging his face — as Malcolm Marshall once did back in the glory days.
As for the pink ball, it tends to move more in the first ten overs but gets softer sooner.
And it can be tricky to see during the lengthy twilight zone in which bowlers can thrive.
Kemar Roach, who had bowled debutant Mark Stoneman with a peach in the third over, took advantage as he ended the 248-run partnership between Root and Alastair Cook by demolishing the England captain’s stumps as the skies bruised.
Yet one problem with the day-night format in England is that it gets dark too late on a summer’s evening to give more than an hour of night cricket — of which there will be more in Adelaide.
The chief difference seems to be in the sheer volume of drinking.
Regular days at the Test match don’t tend to be sober affairs but these later timings encouraged the Barmy Army in Edgbaston’s Hollies Stand to give this the feel of a full-on night at the darts.
Fancy dress, normally a Saturday tradition at the Test, arrived two days early — with cops and robbers, Mr Blobby, the cast of Toy Story and the Jamaican bobsleigh team all Mr Benn-ing it up in a giant conga.
There was even a bloke who’d come as Aston Villa manager Steve Bruce.
Unless, of course, that was Steve Bruce.
When darkness fell, some among the healthy 21,649 crowd were still transfixed by the cricket — but they appeared to be in a minority.
Windies captain Jason Holder — seemingly too nice guy to hold that once-mighty office — failed to take the new ball immediately at nightfall, then hobbled off injured in the middle of his own over.
It was proof that the ruthlessness of the “Fire In Babylon” days are long gone.
Many of those great fast bowlers — Andy Roberts, Michael Holding, Joel Garner and Curtly Ambrose — were here to witness this.
And they make the current lot appear like pale shadows in the floodlights.