The England and Wales Cricket Board are set to act upon one of the recommendations of the High Performance Review by implementing use of the Kookaburra ball in the County Championship next summer.
The move has sparked competition integrity concerns among counties who were not consulted over the decision.
County officials were contacted this week by the ECB’s Cricket Operations Manager Andy Smith about ball requirements for 2023. Included in the email, which Telegraph Sport has seen, was apparent confirmation that the Kookaburra ball would be used for an unspecified period in next year’s Championship instead of the Dukes ball that is standard in English red-ball cricket.
It seems likeliest that the pilot would last for a short period, perhaps two to four games, but counties remain in the dark. It would seem sensible for it to take place after the Ashes begins, on June 16, so that selection is judged in the period while a Dukes ball is being used as it will in the Tests. Exactly which Kookaburra ball is used is unclear.
More is likely to be known next week after a meeting of the ECB’s Cricket Committee, which Andrew Strauss chairs.
The overall move does not come as a surprise, though. While this year’s High Performance Review (HPR) has been controversial for its recommendations for the structure of the domestic game – which Strauss and the other authors now accept will not be taken up in the form they suggested – there were other smaller tweaks among the 17 recommendations.
A pilot of the Kookaburra ball was the sixth recommendation. The benefits of using the Kookaburra are four-fold, according to the review: it will make it harder to take wickets, thus negating the dominance of seamers; that would extend more games into final day; it also gives bowlers experience with ball used away from home [in Test cricket].
“The ball we use may play a role,” read the report. “The Dukes ball has a reputation for more movement for more overs, compared to the Kookaburra ball which is used in many other countries. This extra movement may also limit the need for extreme skill development of seam bowlers, but also limit opportunities for spinners due to the success of seamers domestically.
“We don’t know to what extent the ball has a part to play, but we want to test whether using a Kookaburra will help to develop ‘What it Takes to Win’ bowling attributes, for both pace and spin bowling. Thus, we believe a trial will give us a deeper understanding of this.”
Dukes, meanwhile, are understood to be confident that the production issues that caused problems with its red balls last summer will not be an issue this year.