Australia news February 4, 2017

Use Dukes ball in Australia Tests - Cowan

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'I think it's good to have some competition in town because the Kookaburra balls have been poor in domestic cricket for a couple of years now' - Ed Cowan © Getty Images

Ed Cowan, the former Australia Test batsman, has declared the new Dukes ball being trialled in the Sheffield Shield this season should be seriously considered for use as the Test match ball of choice down under.

Having smashed it for an innings of 212 for New South Wales against Victoria at the MCG over the past two days, Cowan paradoxically praised the Dukes - a version of which has been specially devised for use in Australian conditions - for offering more help to the bowlers.

That much was seen later on day three of the match when Trent Copeland and Sean Abbott swung it prodigiously to help the Blues put the Bushrangers under immense pressure with one day of the match remaining. Cowan told ESPNcricinfo the balls had stood up on a pair of diverse pitches at the MCG and also last week in a second XI match he played at Geelong.

"I think the Dukes is a far superior cricket ball to the Kookaburra in terms of the quality of contest between bat and ball," he said. "They certainly stay in shape, they're harder for longer, they consistently swing, there's a little bit there for the bowlers all day if you're good enough to bowl well, but you can get some runs if you're disciplined with the bat.

"From Australian cricket's point of view I'd love Cricket Australia to look really hard at using Dukes balls in Test cricket in Australia because I think the quality of the ball is superior. I've been lucky enough to play a bit of cricket in England and use the Dukes a bit. I've always found you just have to be really disciplined on the front foot, particularly day one or two of a four-day fixture, you can't bully the ball off the front foot through the off side.

"You've got to play the ball late, respect the ball when they pitch it up and really wait for the bowler to come to you. It doesn't change your plan too much at the top of the order but I certainly think those overs 50-80 with a Kookaburra ball, where a batsman can really dictate terms and hit bowlers off a good length, you can't get away with a Dukes and that keeps bowling sides in it for longer."

Considering how the Dukes ball kept the bowlers in play even after it's been used for 50 overs, Ed Cowan hopes Cricket Australia consider it for use in Tests too © Getty Images

The Victoria stand-in captain Cameron White has wondered at the point of using the Dukes in Shield matches where most likely contenders for the 2019 Ashes are otherwise engaged, but Cowan noted the trial had offered a competitor to Kookaburra the opportunity to show its wares. The traditional manufacturers of Australian cricket balls have been heavily occupied with developing a pink ball for day/night Test cricket in recent times, and is believed to be eager for CA feedback on how the red version can be improved.

"I know CA brought it in under the public guise of preparing for 2019 - I don't know whether politically they're trying to put some pressure on Kookaburra," Cowan said. "But regardless of whether you're playing in Shield rounds and might go on an Ashes tour, I think they've actually fallen over a better cricket ball to use in Australian conditions.

"We used it in a second XI game last week in Geelong on a very different wicket and it held up beautifully and swung consistently. It responds to overhead conditions well. I think it's good to have some competition in town because the Kookaburra balls have been poor in domestic cricket for a couple of years now."

Among the bowlers, the South Australia seamer and recent 12th man for Australia Chadd Sayers said the Dukes was a ball that rewarded the pacemen provided they could control its swing early on. "It was hard to control early with the lacquer on the ball but the ball stays harder for longer which is great for a bowler," Sayers said after the first innings of SA's loss to Western Australia at Glenelg Oval.

"A few swung down the leg side, which wasn't supposed to happen. You've just go to find a way to make the ball work in your favour, which I think we did eventually. It probably took us five overs to work out what was going on."

Cowan's innings was watched by the interim selector Greg Chappell, a noted advocate of youth. Both men have had disagreements with each other in the past, before Chappell helped remodel Cowan's approach to batting following his ejection from the Test team in 2013.

"We have had an evolving relationship and a positive one," Cowan said of Chappell. "We've had our moments of disagreement, but he has a great view of the game and needs to be respected. As a selector there's obviously a general feel of picking youth that has its merits if the young guys are good enough.

"I'm still a fan of the best Test and one-day team being picked for every game, but it's good to see young guys get an opportunity if they deserve it, I think that's the key. Greg has a great mind on cricket, a great technical eye and Australian cricket is very lucky to have such a fine servant."

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • RedDirt on February 7, 2017, 12:04 GMT

    BRADMANBESTEVER - I'm more nervous when they're not!

  • Behind_the_bowlers_arm on February 5, 2017, 21:03 GMT

    Hats This Duke ball is one they have worked on to make last better in Australian conditions. Presume you would have used a standard English Duke ball. Can recall Mark Butcher on tv in the UK saying he had tested the Duke ball in Aust conditions and it (the standard one) went to pieces as yours did. Seems this Australian conditions one is doing the job and needs to be trialled further. A ball that holds its shape and gives bowlers a chance would be a good thing in the long run for the game in Australia. By the way when he retires I think Ed Cowan should be offered a position within Cricket Australia as a recently retired player who knows the game and is open minded. If they don't cricinfo need to offer him a job writing about the game.

  • HatsforBats on February 5, 2017, 11:49 GMT

    @Tony-Tasmania, is it that the Kookaburras are now machine-stitched, which has resulted in a lower seam? I recall an interview last year in which a representative of Dukes was extolling the virtues of their balls; how they were still hand-stitched, and how proud the seam remained, thereby allowing the ball to move for longer. Like @Chris_P mentioned, bowlers at my old club hated the Dukes when it was trialled a few years back, it simply didn't last. I'd be interested to know what changes they've made to get it to last over here.

  • cricfan15863943 on February 5, 2017, 11:10 GMT

    Kookaburra have a monopoly in the Australian cricket ball market which causes more harm at the grassroots level than at the lofty heights Cowan plays in (Ed, maaate, if you want a game in Sydney's Inner West any Saturday give me a call). Not the quality of the game, but financially. $45 for a TufPitch (there's no shame in playing on astro) per game. We have 18 one day games this season. By the dozen it's $44 per ball. 800 is a lot of bucks.

    Bring on something just as hardwearing as a TufPitch for five bucks less... that's 3 cases of beer. (Sand on an astro turf is brutal -- often worse at the start of the season when they've just dug the pitch up from the footy season).

  • Tony-Tasmania on February 5, 2017, 4:48 GMT

    To Chris_P. The ball was definitely changed in the manufacturing process back in the early 90's due to Alderman. Who after coming back from SA played Shield cricket while serving his ban and this when the ructionsabout the ball began. He was taking 50 plus wickets a shield season when serving his ban. The Board from memory ordered Kooka. to change the width of the stitches from about 2mm to 3.5mm making to prevent swing bowlers dominating Shield and one day cricket. The new ball is more round today compared to the old style ball. I remember as a kid you could swing a new Kooka ball at right angles for about 40 overs which was 40 years ago!

  • Peter_The_Average on February 5, 2017, 3:11 GMT

    Sounds like a good idea. Australian batsman would adapt better to playing overseas and our quicks get a moving ball. No Asian team has ever won a test series in Australia, with a moving ball none would probably get a draw in the future. But then again English bowlers would like some swing too :(

  • Chris_P on February 5, 2017, 2:48 GMT

    @TONY-TASMANIA. Although the seam was changed, I do not think it was due to Terry Alderman, who actually was touring South Africa prior to that with rebel tours and didn't really dominate Australian batsmen in these conditions as he did in England.p when touring there or with Kent, his long time county team. I would really welcome the bowlers thoughts on the ball. We had used the Eng;ish Dukes ball a few seasons ago & they simply didn't last, they were useless here, but this new construction appears much better.

  • baggygreenmania on February 5, 2017, 2:30 GMT

    Totally with ED here. It was easy to see that the bowler looked far more confident in this round than previous ones. Anything that makes the game a fairer contest between bat and ball has my vote. Kookaburra, now needs to develop a ball similar to the English Dukes for use in Australia.

  • Insult_2_Injury on February 5, 2017, 1:21 GMT

    Anything that means batsmen approach the crease with some fear of the unknown will be good for Aussie cricket. It means batsmen will start looking at their defensive technique and then build an innings based on that days variables. Hopefully less of the no footwork, 45deg bat which has been a major contributor to chop ons and catches behind square. As for the bowlers, they'll not only learn to control the swing, but hopefully take control of shining it again, to understand the nuances of each ball as it changes thru an innings. Anything that teaches future players about the satisfaction of long form cricket is a good thing. Not just for Tests, but all forms.

  • lillee4PM on February 5, 2017, 1:03 GMT

    Great innings from Cowan and of course I agree 100% with him about the Dukes ball. The sooner Cricket Australia 'swings away' from the commercial relationship with Kookaburra the better.

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