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Dukes admit 'quality issue' with batch of balls for early stages of county season

Manufacturers have sent out new boxes to counties after surge in number of 500-plus totals

Umpires James Middlebrook and Alex Wharf inspect the ball, LV= Insurance County Championship, Division Two, Durham vs Glamorgan, The Riverside, May 14, 2022

Umpires James Middlebrook and Alex Wharf inspect the ball  •  MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The owner of the business which manufacturers Dukes cricket balls has admitted that "there seems to be a problem" with the batch that have been used in the opening rounds of the County Championship season, which has contributed to high scores across the country.
There have been 20 totals of 500 or more in the first 48 matches of the 2022 season, compared to only 12 across the 125 Championship games played in 2021.
In addition, there have been 36.89 runs scored for every wicket lost in the Championship in 2022 - a 28% increase on 2021, and the highest figure on record since 1990.
While flatter pitches and a relatively dry spring have both contributed, county cricketers have criticised the quality of balls used. "The balls have been shocking this year," Scott Borthwick, Durham's captain, said after the third day of his side's win against Glamorgan.
"The batch of balls are a bit different: they seem to go soft pretty quickly, and then when they go soft, they swell a bit and go out of shape. They're just not a great batch, to be honest.
"It's something to do with Dukes. They've obviously got this batch wrong. I know the seamers want them to go back to last year's batch because I think the seams are actually smaller on them as well so you get a little bit less sideways movement. I guess that's why there's so many big scores this season."
Borthwick added that Marcus North, Durham's director of cricket, had been part of a group call with the ECB in which it was said that there had been more ball changes in the first six rounds of the 2022 season than in the whole of last year's Championship.
Dilip Jajodia, who owns British Cricket Balls Ltd, the makers of Dukes balls, told the Guardian: "There's been a quality issue, on the basis that balls are going out of shape. It's not a major issue. We've tightened up our process, we're sending balls out all the time, and hopefully the feedback will be better."
"We do everything exactly the same: the same procedures, the same raw materials. Then if there's a problem you have to react. Unfortunately we've had a batch where there seems to be a problem.
"If there's something inherently wrong with raw materials that started their journey nine months ago there's not a lot I can do about it, and I can't see it until they're in use. A handmade, natural product can't always be perfect. It amazes me how successful we are, actually."
While the faulty balls have led to some attritional cricket, they have also rewarded bowlers with skills suited to Test level: Matthew Potts, who is widely tipped to be part of England's squad for the first Test against New Zealand, is the highest wicket-taker in the country, while Lancashire's Hasan Ali and Matt Parkinson - proponents of reverse-swing and legspin respectively - lead the wicket charts in Division One.