Balls to it…

The talk of the English cricketing world has been on the type of balls used in the County Championship… but what’s it all about?

Patrick Hollis
3 min readApr 19, 2024
Dukes balls can be varied in England

The County Championship played the role of guinea pig in the second round of 2024 fixtures, and it was a move that in principle made sense and still does. The traditional Kookaburra ball was kept in the dressing room, and instead, the Dukes ball was grasped by bowlers up and down the land.

The ball change isn’t new, and two rounds of matches last season saw the Kookaburra used. This time around, the ball has been used. According to the ECB, this is to “assess and interrogate data collected for use of the Kookaburra ball in the County Championship, and how that affects performance and other skills — such as reverse swing and spin — in domestic four-day cricket in England and Wales.”

This all seems fair enough, and what can be concluded after the latest round of Kookaburra games is that it is tougher to take wickets in good time than with the Duke ball. The stats speak for themselves, with lots and lots of runs scored. Over 10,600 of them, with 11 innings over 400 and even two within touching distance of 700. Oh, and on top of that, every single fixture was a draw.

In the English game, these scores are usually only reserved for matches where the pitch is the proverbial ‘road’, that being, a surface where batting is wholly dominant. But in a round where it was hoped to give an insight into the impact of the Kookaburra ball in English conditions, it showed that batting is very much king over ball.

I’m sure you’re sitting there now thinking ‘What’s the big deal? Why are these two cricket balls so different?’ It’s a good question, and there’s more of a difference than you might realise. The manufacturing of each ball plays a big part in how each performs.

Kookaburra and Dukes are cricket ball manufacturers that have been pitted against each other for decades. The Kookaburra is used predominantly for matches in Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa, whilst the Dukes is opted for by England, West Indies, and Ireland.

The Kookaburra ball is King in the southern hemisphere (Photo: The Telegraph)

The balls are physically different and are manufactured in alternative ways. The Dukes ball is slightly heavier, and its seams are more prominent, which creates more swing than the Kookaburra ball. The Dukes balls are hand-stitched, whereas the Kookaburras are machine-produced, giving them more consistency.

Being able to grip the Dukes ball better on its more obvious seam helps in variation when bowling, this is sometimes why bowlers accustomed to the Dukes ball struggle with the Kookaburra.

Spin bowlers have historically got more joy from the Kookaburra, as it tends to grip more on dry, hard pitches. It is with this ball that legendary Australian Shane Warne took so many of his 708 Test wickets — few people were safe from the damage he could do with a cricket ball.

The keen-eyed amongst you will spot that the Dukes ball is a deeper shade or red than its Southern Hemisphere counterpart. It also stays darker for longer than the Kookaburra.

The use of the Kookaburra ball in the English county game makes sense, even if it is just to prepare players for using it on tours of Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. Australia in particular has rarely been a happy hunting ground for England, although that is an issue that is far deeper rooted than the type of ball used.

The Kookaburra ball is expected to return in three more rounds of fixtures this season, and many people will perhaps hope for a different outcome. With tours to New Zealand, South Africa, and Australia all on the horizon in two years, getting to grips with the unfamiliar ball could provide a method within the madness.



Patrick Hollis

I am a journalist with an honours degree from Coventry University. I’m a published author and journalist with several years experience in the industry