Sheffield Shield 2016-17
Players extend the dukes around new ball
Host of Sheffield Shield players praise introduction of Dukes cricket ball after debut last week
5 February 2017, 11:21 AM AEST
The Dukes ball experiment has been given the thumbs up by a host of Australian domestic players after it made a swinging impression in its Sheffield Shield debut last week.
The balls made their maiden appearance in the first-class competition as part of a Cricket Australia trial, an experiment aimed at better preparing players for UK conditions ahead of the next away Ashes series in 2019.
The heavily lacquered, slightly smaller and lighter Dukes balls swing more than the Kookaburra that is normally used in Australia, with South Australia’s Chadd Sayers, Queensland’s Michael Neser and Western Australia’s Simon Mackin among those who looked particularly threatening with the new cherry in hand.
At the Gabba, Neser delivered an outrageous inswinger to clean bowl Tasmania opener Jake Hancock in the Tigers’ first innings, one of his five wickets for the match.
In Glenelg, Mackin was slightly askew early as he adapted to the unfamiliar ball, but once he adjusted he blitzed his way to a career-best 7-81 in the first innings, before picking up another 5-78 in SA’s second dig.
And on the opening day of the same match, there wasn't much Warriors skipper Adam Voges could do about a Sayers delivery that nipped back in and cannoned into his stumps when he was on 11.
Sayers and fellow Redbacks paceman Kane Richardson both picked up nine wickets for the match and Sayers said the Dukes ball was a perfect fit for the cloudy conditions.
"It was hard to control early when the lacquer was on the ball, and a few swung down leg side," Sayers said of the ball, which will used in the Shield for the rest of the season.
"But you just have to find a way to make it work for you which we did eventually, and after that we got it in the right areas.
"It (the Dukes ball) stays harder for longer which is great for a bowler."
After Queensland wrapped up a 133-run win over Tasmania in Brisbane, wicketkeeper Chris Hartley suggested the Dukes ball could become commonplace in Shield cricket after this summer's trial, having produced a more even contest between bat and ball.
"You either make the wickets a little more sporting to even up the contest and go back to the Kookaburras, or you keep the Dukes and you allow bowlers to have a little bit more out of the hand," Hartley said at the Gabba.
"Players around Australia just want a good contest between bat and ball ... there's plenty for CA to think about."
Queensland teammate Joe Burns, who captured his first ever Shield wicket with his first Dukes-ball delivery, said the ball’s introduction could swing the season in the Bulls’ favour.
"I think the Dukes ball really suits the way we play the game," Burns said on Saturday.
"Coming from Brisbane with the way we play the swinging ball anyway, it kind of lends itself to our strengths.
"Michael Neser with his impact and his speed and the fact that he swings it both ways is very dangerous with the Dukes ball.
"We've got Mark Steketee, who is very good with the Dukes ball."
New South Wales batsman Ed Cowan, who scored a double century at the MCG in the Blues’ innings-and-77-run thrashing of Victoria, went even further, suggesting CA should consider using the Dukes balls in Test matches as well.
While Cowan thrived against the English ball during his innings of 212 for the Blues, it also offered plenty for NSW pacemen Sean Abbott and Trent Copeland, the pair finding prodigious swing to pile the pressure on Victoria's batsmen.
"I think the Dukes is a far superior cricket ball to the Kookaburra in terms of the quality of contest between bat and ball," Cowan told ESPN.
"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.
"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."
Cricket Australia’s Head of Cricket Operations Sean Cary said the early feedback from the players had been positive.
"Bowlers have taken wickets and batsmen are making runs,” Cary told The Australian.
"Batsmen are getting good value for shots as the ball ages."