Analysis of the impact made by the English-manufactured Dukes ball on last summer’s Sheffield Shield competition has shown it might provide a boost for Australia’s Test team striving to break a 16-year Ashes drought in the UK.
Cricket Australia’s Head of Cricket Operations, Sean Cary, said the statistical data collected from the five rounds of Shield matches (plus the competition final) that employed the Dukes ball had yielded results largely in keeping with expectations that drove the trial.
The most significant being the drop in the average number of runs scored per wicket taken; 28.9 against the Dukes ball as opposed to 34.6 in the three rounds of Shield cricket last summer that featured the traditional, Australia-made Kookaburra red ball.
As well as the comparative reduction in individual centuries – 19 against the red Kookaburra (6.3 per round of matches) versus 18 in total in preliminary Shield rounds using the Dukes (3.6 per round) – suggesting that batters found it tougher against the English ball that is reputed to swing further and retain its hardness longer.
CA announced last October they had worked with UK-based manufacturer to produce a ball that mirrored the performance of the English version, but was designed to suit harsher Australian conditions, to help the nation’s top-level domestic batters and bowlers better adapt to the idiosyncrasies of the Dukes.
The trial was driven by the struggles that successive Australia Test teams have endured against their Ashes rival on English soil, where the visitors have not won a campaign since Steve Waugh’s team triumphed in 2001.
“It (the two-month Dukes trial) delivered what we thought it would deliver, we thought it would create challenging environments for the batsmen and give the bowlers a little bit more to work with,” Cary told cricket.com.au.
“I think the long-form game, if anything, needs to favour the bowler a little bit because the batsmen get plenty of favouritism in the white-ball formats.
“So it was about allowing local cricketers to adapt, and seeing who among them can adapt more quickly, as well as those who are prepared to accept that challenge.
“And then they put their foot forward in terms of selection for 2019 if they can become consistent.”
The unique properties of the Dukes ball – slightly smaller and darker than its red Kookaburra counterpart, and with a more prominent seam – were most evident on day one of the 15 Shield matches played prior to the final between Victoria and South Australia (which also featured the English ball).
In eight of those matches, the team batting first lost their initial six wickets for 150 runs or less, compared to 12 such day-one collapses in 34 matches using the red Kookaburra ball over the past two summers.
As a result, the average total of the team batting first on day one dropped from 335 against the…