Today saw the start of The Ashes test series and it is amazing how home ground advantage has played it's part in the past. It is not only the local support and the different types of pitches but also the ball that is used. In Australia they use the Kookaburra and in England they use the Duke. This makes a big difference even though they are both red and weigh the same they do play differently. It is all to do in the stitching of the ball and how the ball plays.
New and a 21 over old Kookaburra.
The Kookaburra ball is made in Australia and has a lower seam than the Duke. The seam will stay prominent for around 20- 25 overs and soften allowing the spinners to come into the game. The fast bowlers will take advantage of whatever seam is available to help with the movement off the pitch. This is why the first 20- 25 overs is key for the Kookaburra ball as it gives you a limited time to take advantage of the seam. You may hear someone say the opening batsmen's job is to see off the new ball and that is normally the first 20 overs. Batting becomes easier once the shine and hard seam has disappeared.
Pitches in Austarlia are more abrasive than the English pitches. On the left is a Duke after 40 overs in English conditions and a Kookaburra after 40 overs in Australian conditions. Would be good to see them after being played with the same conditions as this tells us nothing about the ball.
The Duke has a more pronounced seam and is a little higher. This allows the ball to do more things and the ball will stay true for around 40 - 50 overs which is double that of the Kookaburra. English bowlers are used to this ball and know exactly what it can do under helpful conditions. The spinners will only come into play much later as the seam slowly disappears.
It is crazy that there isn't one ball use in test cricket as the Kookaburra is used by the majority of test playing nations. Australia,New Zealand,South Africa, Pakistan,Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe use this ball. The Duke is only used by the West Indies and England and the Indians use a ball called the SG. All of these balls play differently and give the teams a distinct advantage for home test matches and a disadvantage for away series if the ball is different.
I think it is about time the ICC chooses one of the balls and sticks with it as it is like what happened with Formula One many years ago. There were Pirelli tires and Bridgestone tires and some lasted longer than others under different conditions.This was scrapped as it was deemed unfair and the racing unbalanced and they settled with Pirelli tires as the chosen tire for everyone.
The Duke ball is used by two test playing nations compared to six using the Kookaburra and it is about time they go with one or the other. They are both excellent balls and to make it fair for the manufacturers use one for one day cricket and another for the longer formats of the game. I would be worried if one was favored over the other it would effect the other one. Cricket needs both balls to continue as they are quality and can't be replaced by just anyone. Years of craftsmanship and development has gone into this and they have stood the test of time.