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Cricket balls are manufactured to conform to the specification laid down in Law 5 of the Laws of Cricket.

However, there are several different manufacturers of cricket ball, and normally the host country's cricket board will choose which manufacturers' cricket balls they will use.

For instance, Australia typically use a Kookaburra cricket ball (as do many other countries - Kookaburra claim "85% of Test Matches and One Day Internationals" use their Turf ball.)

At least anecdotally, each manufacturer's products are supposed to vary, so the home team, with its familiarity with the cricket balls of its chosen manufacturer, may have an advantage.

Which manufacturers' cricket balls are currently used at Test level, and by which teams? What are their key differences in behaviour? (Note that I am not specifically enquiring about differences between red and white cricket balls.)

  • The white Kookaburra balls are used in One Day Internationals and T20Is, while the red one is used in Tests in most nations apart from West Indies and England (Duke) and India (SG). - From wikipedia – NetStarter Jun 28 '13 at 7:47
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Which manufacturers cricket balls are currently used at Test level, and by which teams?

  • India - SG
  • England - Dukes
  • New Zealand, South Africa, Bangladesh, Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Australia - Kookaburra

What is the difference?

Kookaburra has a very low seam which generally holds true for 20 overs and then dies after that.

The seam in the SG ball is upright and very prominent. It stays the same till the 80th over or more. The ball tends to lose shine because of the nature of the outfields in Indian conditions, but the seam stays intact. Because of the seam, the ball tends to grip the pitch and assist in spin and lateral movement.

Whereas in Duke balls the seam remains pronounced even till 50-55 overs if proper care is taken.

SG balls swing for a max of 5 overs whereas the Dukes balls swing for about 20 overs, making the Dukes most favourable for bowlers. And kookaburra swings far better than the SG.

An article on the differences

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  1. As far as red ball cricket (First Class, Tests - rarely List-A or T20) goes, SG, Duke (called "the cherry" informally due to smaller size and dark red color) and Kookaburra are the three widely used brands for international cricket manufactured by Sanspareils Greenlands (India), British Cricket Balls Ltd (UK) and Kookaburra Sport (Australia) respectively.
  2. All white ball cricket (limited overs) use the Kookuburra irrespective of the country/location.
  3. When it comes to pink ball cricket (day-night tests or first-class matches), though Dukes and SG debuted in England and India recently, Kookaburra is more widely used.
  4. As test playing nations, the usage (in their home matches) is as follows:
    • SG is used only by India.
    • Dukes is used by both England and West Indies.
    • Kookaburra is used by Australia, Bangladesh, Pakistan, New Zealand, South Africa, Sri Lanka, and Zimbabwe.
  5. SG is hand-made and has a prominent seam and can stay intact until up to 80 overs. It assists conventional swing for around 10 overs. After losing the shine, it can almost immediately assist reverse swing. Its softer leather means better grip on surface for spinners. A prominent seam means better grip on hand too for spinners. Since the leather is soft, it has not been a great exponent of pace bowling, but great for reverse swing and spin bowling and mildly good for conventional swing. "Very good lateral movement, good pace and softer material" describes it well. But more recently (in 2019), improvements have made it a bit harder, retain shine a bit longer and hence assist conventional swing for 15-20 overs, bringing that aspect closer to the Dukes ball.
  6. Kookaburra has a less prominent and close-knit seam, which tends to get lowered after 10-15 overs. It is machine made and is made for drier weather/environment. Since it is manufactured in Australia, which falls in the southern hemisphere, the leather (cattle leather mostly) is believed to be harder than the northern hemisphere leather (hence machine manufacturing). It supports conventional swing when its condition is new (say until 10-15 overs), but needs more work on the field to get it reversed. Hence it has been observed that it supports pace bowling to a great extent, is a mild supporter of swing and not a great proposition of spin. "Good lateral movement, excellent pace and hard material" describes it well.
  7. Dukes is hand-made and has a prominent seam, and is a bit smaller in size. It assists conventional swing for upto 20 overs and retains shine longer. Since it is hand-made, it is closer to SG in build than the Kookaburra. It assists reverse swing as well as spinners. It is fairly conductive to pace bowling but softens like SG after 40-45 overs. Because of the prominent seam, it gives a good grip to the spinners as well. "Excellent lateral movement, good pace and soft material" describes it well.

There is no other game I know which relies on "conditions" as much as Cricket does. The above is just a general behavior observed. Dukes and Kookaburra can also turn, SG can also bounce well on conducive tracks. Its the ball, the track/pitch, weather conditions plus of course the talent of the bowler that decides the behavior of the ball on a given day.

UPDATE:

Find more interesting information on cricket balls and their history here.

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As Orangecrush has said elsewhere:

Red Kookaburra ball is used in Tests in most nations apart from West Indies & England (Duke) and India (SG). All One Day International matches, regardless of location, are played with Kookaburra balls.

This gives the answer to the first two parts of your question.

And the manufacturing of the balls differ only in stitching process. Also, dukes tend to swing around a bit more than kookaburras. The sub-continent cricket balls are slightly smaller, darker, harder, with a slightly more prominent seam & allows ball to last longer.

  • Thank you for the information. I'm interested in the differences between the Duke, SG, and Kookaburra balls you mention, not in the difference between red and white cricket balls (I am aware of the question regarding the differences between those). I have clarified my question to make this clearer. – Spinner Jun 27 '13 at 14:33

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