02 Jul

Cricket Australia (CA) has dropped the British-made Dukes ball from its 2020/21 Sheffield Shield season and will use only the Kookaburra ball to encourage more spin bowling on home pitches, Cricket Australia said on Thursday (2 July).

The Dukes were introduced to the Sheffield Shield in 2016/17 to help prepare Australia`s batsmen for the ball used on English pitches in the leadup to the 2019 Ashes.

Tim Paine`s Australia retained the urn on English soil last year for the first time since 2001 with a 2-2 draw in the five-test series.

CA`s Head of Cricket Operations Peter Roach said it was the right time to revert back to exclusive use of the Kookaburra for the first-class competition.

“The introduction of the Dukes ball has been a worthwhile exercise, particularly in the lead up to overseas Ashes series where the Dukes is used so well by our English opponents,” Roach said in a statement.

“We have noted that spin bowlers in the … Sheffield Shield have been playing less of a role in recent seasons, most notably in games when the Dukes ball is in use.

“We need spinners bowling in first class cricket and we need our batters facing spin. We hope that the change to one ball with have a positive benefit here.”

Dilip Jajodia, the owner of Dukes ball manufacturer ‘British Cricket Balls’, said the firm understood CA`s decision. “We … are buoyed by the potential for the Dukes to return in future seasons,” he said.

The decision follows complaints from Australian cricketers that spin bowling is being driven out of the domestic game, in large part because of unreceptive, drop-in pitches at most major venues. Spinners accounted for less than 15 per cent of all overs bowled with the Dukes last summer, down from about a quarter of all overs in 2016-17 and took just 10 per cent of all Dukes ball wickets in the last Sheffield Shield season.

Top-ranked test side Australia, who face second-ranked India in the home summer, are also hoping to be more successful playing away in the subcontinent, where pitches are more conducive to spin.

John Stephenson


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