Concerns grow over the Dukes ball as reports of them going out of shape and prematurely soft grow less than a week out from England’s Test summer curtain-raiser at Lord’s
- Dukes have undertaken quality checks on the match balls ahead of Lord’s Test
- Dilip Jajodia has always hand-picked the balls for Test cricket in England
- He has doubled down on the process after reports of dodgy batches this year
- He will select the best 24 off the production line before handing 12 over
Dukes have undertaken extra quality checks on the match balls they provide for England’s first Test following complaints about their sub-standard performance this season.
Dilip Jajodia, owner of the British manufacturer, has always hand-picked the balls for Test cricket in this country but has doubled down on the process amid accusations that the 2022 batch are going soft and out of shape prematurely.
He will therefore choose the best 24 off the production line and then whittle them down to 12 before handing them over for England v New Zealand at Lord’s, starting on Thursday.
Dukes owner Dilip Jajodia will double down on the process to select the balls for Lord’s
Mail on Sunday columnist Stuart Broad highlighted the issue last week, when he said it felt like he’d been bowling with ‘a rolled-up piece of plasticine’ during County Championship matches.
Broad’s team Nottinghamshire were forced into four ball changes last Saturday as they dismissed Derbyshire for 262 at Trent Bridge and the ECB confirmed one match involving Durham featured seven ball replacements.
The 18 counties receive their supply of balls for first-class cricket in consignments over a season but to cope with the extra ball changes, the second dispatch was made ahead of schedule a fortnight ago.
Concerns have grown that the reported problems could impact the Test summer
Now, concerns that the quality problem could run over into a month-long period of four Test matches have led Jajodia to take action.
Over several decades Dukes balls have earned an outstanding reputation for their durability, making the current problems — which have contributed to the most batsman-friendly start to a season in memory — all the more perplexing.
And the complexity of the nine-month manufacturing process of the hand-stitched balls, involving leather, rubber and cork means identifying a potential weak spot is challenging.
Brendan McCullum will be expecting the best for his first Test as coach of England’s Test side
But Jajodia has asked the tannery and suppliers of the ball components to inform him of any changes that were made in their production operations during the pandemic, while he has also spent the past few days studying the pressure applied when the balls are moulded.
New Zealand captain Kane Williamson was dismissed for a duck in his only warm-up innings before the First Test.
Williamson, who landed in England on Thursday after the birth of his second child, lasted just nine deliveries on the third day against a County Select XI before edging to slip.
New Zealand were reduced to 19 for six on the third morning at Chelmsford before the lower order mounted a recovery to set the county side 264 to win.
At the close, they were 112 for 1, with Kent opener Ben Compton 56 not out.