England hoping Kookaburra ball can help them win Down Under

The Kookaburra ball - County Championship double number of rounds played with Kookaburra ball to aid Ashes plans
The Kookaburra ball will be used in four rounds of matches next summer - Getty Images/Penny Stephens

The constant tinkering with County Championship regulations will continue in 2024 with the doubling of the number of matches played with the Kookaburra ball to help seamers prepare for conditions overseas, and to promote spinners.

The British-made Dukes ball, which is known to move more extravagantly in the air and off the seam, is the default ball in England. But following a recommendation in the High Performance Review of 2022, which was led by Andrew Strauss, the Australian Kookaburra ball was used for two rounds in a “pilot” 2023. It is understood that it is set to rise to four rounds for the 2024 Championship.

Another change in regulations will see a draw become worth eight points again, up from five. A draw was reduced to five points last year to encourage more attacking, Bazball-style cricket, but that move has been shelved at the first opportunity.

The moves have been in the works between the England and Wales Cricket Board and the county directors of cricket recently. It was discussed at a meeting of the Professional Game Committee on Monday, and is expected to be ratified next week.

Alastair Cook clean bowled - County Championship double number of rounds played with Kookaburra ball to aid Ashes plans
The Kookaburra ball moves less extravagantly than the Dukes ball - Getty Images/Andy Kearns

Hoped the move will further help spinners

Last week, England’s performance director Mo Bobat spoke in glowing terms about the trial, which saw more overs bowled by spinners, an embattled breed in the Championship.

“In the months of June and July, we played some Championship cricket that used a Dukes ball and some that used the Kookaburra ball,” said Bobat. “The data says there was 10 per cent more spin bowled, and I think that is quite interesting. We went from 23 per cent to 33 per cent, I think, and that is a much healthier position to get to.

“I would certainly encourage us to think about using a Kookaburra ball for periods of the summer. I don’t think we should do it for the entirety of the summer because I don’t want to lose the competitive advantage we have of using the Dukes ball and getting used to that. But I do think a balance of that might mean that spin is bowled more.

“I would assume it’s because it’s getting less lateral movement from a pace perspective, so it probably means that your 80mph seamer is less effective. So, how do you influence the game? Well, you bowl more spin.”

It was not universally popular, though, with Surrey’s double Championship-winning coach Gareth Batty calling last year’s trial “very silly” and “a kneejerk reaction” to England’s most recent defeat in Australia.

The 2024 fixtures are due to be announced next Thursday. The volume of cricket will remain constant from 2023.