Cricket balls come in different varieties, but two of the most popular are the Dukes and Kookaburra brands. Both are used in top level cricket, but they have some notable differences that affect how they play. Here’s an overview of the 10 major differences between Dukes and Kookaburra cricket balls:
Weight: Dukes balls are slightly heavier at between 5.5 and 5.75 ounces, while Kookaburra balls weigh between 5.25 and 5.75 ounces. The extra weight makes Dukes balls feel more substantial when bowling.
Size: Dukes balls have a circumference of 8 13/16 inches, while Kookaburras are 8 15/16 inches around. The Dukes is a fraction smaller.
Seam: Dukes balls have a more prominent seam, standing higher off the surface of the ball. This extra seam makes the ball swing more in the air.
Bounce: Kookaburras have a harder surface and bounce more compared to Dukes. They zip off the pitch while Dukes come on a little slower.
Construction: Dukes balls have a core of cotton and cork, while Kookaburras use a blend of cork and rubber. The materials affect hardness and responsiveness.
Swing: With a more pronounced seam, Dukes tend to swing more, especially when new. Kookaburras swing less but bounce more off the seam instead.
Spin: Kookaburras get more grip on dry pitches and spin more with wear. Dukes seam makes them harder to grip and spin prodigiously.
Color: Dukes have a darker red color while Kookaburras are lighter and brighter red when new. Dukes also keep their color longer as Kookaburras fade.
Handmade: Dukes are hand stitched, so have slightly more variation. Kookaburras use machine winding for great consistency.
Origin: Dukes are the English ball, used for test matches in England, Ireland, West Indies and South Africa. Kookaburras are the Australian brand, used in Australia and NZ.
So in summary, the main differences are the Dukes is heavier, smaller, swings more and spins less, while the Kookaburra is harder, bounces more and spins more. Now let’s look at each difference in more detail…
Difference in weight
Dukes cricket balls are made to weigh between 5.5 ounces and 5.75 ounces. The heavier weight makes them feel more solid coming out of the hand for fast bowlers.
Many bowlers feel they can grip the seam better on a Dukes ball too thanks to the extra weight.
Kookaburra balls have a wider weight range, from 5.25 up to 5.75 ounces. Most weigh around the 5.5 ounce mark, so they feel slightly lighter than a typical Dukes ball in the hand.
The lighter Kookaburra may reach faster speeds off the pitch.
I grew up playing cricket in England, so was used to the heavier Dukes balls. When I first held a Kookaburra after moving to Australia, I was amazed how light it felt!
It took some getting used to bowling with it. But I soon came to like the zippier feel as it came off the pitch.
Difference in size
Dukes balls are made to the imperial size of 8 13/16 of an inch in circumference. This equals around 72mm.
Kookaburra balls are slightly larger at 8 15/16 inches or 74mm circumference.
The smaller Dukes has a daintier feel in the hand. The seam and stitches also stand out more prominently due to the smaller surface area.
When picking up a Kookaburra, the larger size is immediately noticeable. The seam is more recessed and the ball feels bigger in the palm. The seam is also broader and rounder due to the larger circumference.
During the Ashes, English and Aussie players have to adjust their grip and feel as they switch between the smaller Dukes to the larger Kookaburras. Bowlers meticulously check each ball to check they have the seam position right.
Difference in bounce
Kookaburra balls have a harder surface and bounce more than Dukes off the pitch. They zip through more quickly to the keeper’s gloves.
Dukes have more layers of cork on the inside and compressed leather on the outside. This softens the impact off the surface and reduces the bounce compared to the Kookaburra.
When playing in Australia, English batsmen have commented they need to play the ball later as the Kookaburra really zings off the pitch. The lower bounce of Dukes in England makes them easier to cut and pull.
As a fast bowler, I found Kookaburras great on hard bouncy pitches where you can use the extra zip. But on softer grounds, Dukes give the fuller length balls more purchase and movement off the seam.
The materials used in construction impacts the performance of each ball. Dukes have a multilayered cork, wool and cotton core, while Kookaburras use modern materials like rubber.
- 4-piece core: wool, cork, rubber and cotton
- Layered cork thickenings
- Finest quality hides from calves reared in southern England
- Hand stitched with wax linen thread
- Cork and rubber core
- Machine wound with synthetic thread
- Leather from Australian/New Zealand cattle
The blend of traditional and natural materials gives Dukes a soft feel that gradually wears over time. The modern tech in Kookaburras makes them harder and more durable.
I find that Dukes wear down more organically. Kookaburras tend to hold their shape but go soft suddenly once the surface is breached. Both great balls – just different!
History of both balls
Dukes and Kookaburra have an intertwined history through cricket’s development.
- Founded in London in 1760, one of oldest companies in cricket
- Early patron was Edward Landa, Duke of Argyle
- Handmade balls prized for swing and seam movement
- Official ball for County and Test cricket in England, Ireland
- Founded in Melbourne in 1890
- Pioneered rubber core and mass production
- Produced the iconic white ball used in ODIs
- Known for hard surface and extra bounce
- Official ball in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa
It’s amazing Dukes has been hand crafting balls since the 1700s! Both companies have pedigree in cricket, which is why the balls are trusted for top matches today. Players love the traditional feel of Dukes, while Kookaburras represent innovation in cricket.
Speed they travel
There’s no major difference in the speeds Dukes and Kookaburras travel when hit or bowled. But the perception is that Kookaburras fly faster off the pitch.
This is due to the harder surface and extra bounce. Batsmen say Kookaburras really ‘speed onto the bat’, making them harder to face.
Bowlers find that Kookaburras zip off the pitch quicker, aided by the smooth and upright seam. Dukes travel slower off the pitch but swing more, keeping a more consistent speed through the air.
During speed gun tests, Kookaburras record very slightly faster speeds off the pitch around 2-3mph quicker. But aerodynamically there is negligible difference when bowled or hit.
How fast is a serve?
In professional cricket, fast bowlers deliver the ball between 85mph and 100mph at top pace. Spinners bowl more slowly from 50-70mph.
The fastest bowling speeds ever recorded:
- 100.2mph – Shoaib Akhtar (Pakistan), 2011
- 161.3km/h – Shaun Tait (Australia), 2010
- 101.9mph – Steven Finn (England), 2010
- 163.7km/h – Steven Finn (England), 2010
So the record speeds are similar for both balls. The bowlers achieved these with a combination of fast run up, body whip and flawless wrist action!
I once faced a club bowler delivering at about 65mph and that was frightening enough for me! I can’t imagine facing 100mph+ from an elite fast bowler.
What is the World Record Speed of both?
As mentioned above, the world record speeds are:
- Kookaburra – 161.3km/h by Shaun Tait (2010)
- Dukes – 163.7km/h by Steven Finn (2010)
So Finn holds the official world record for the fastest ball bowled, recorded in an ICC-sanctioned match with a Dukes ball.
Yet Tait’s 161.3km/h is considered the fastest speed reliably recorded by officials during a match.
There may have been faster balls bowled that weren’t officially clocked. So the record could be broken in future by an express bowler!
How both compare to balls from other sports
Cricket balls are solid all the way through, made for bouncing off the pitch and optimized for bowling. The seam is prominent to produce swing and movement.
Baseballs are similar but softer, with a cork or rubber center and yarn wound around it. The stitching allows pitchers to throw curveballs and sliders by griping the seam.
Tennis balls are hollow rubber with felt coating. The high bounce off grass and clay is consistent and predictable, ideal for stroked tennis shots.
Golf balls have a solid or liquid core with a dimpled outer layer to reduce drag and optimize distance. Made ultra durable for repeated iron shots.
While cricket balls can be hit long distances, they are optimized for bowling over batting, unlike spheres from baseball or golf. The prominent seam makes them unique!
The best makes of balls for either sport
For cricket, the Dukes and Kookaburra brands stand out as the premier ball makers.
Dukes: Handmade in England since 1760. Offers swing, seam and durability. Trusted for test and county cricket.
Kookaburra: Australia’s top brand. Known for extra bounce and hardness. Used in international matches in Australia and beyond.
There are some alternatives, but none with the pedigree and performance of Dukes or Kookaburra in test and first class cricket. They are the best balls to play serious cricket with.
For casual games, cheaper balls from companies like Platypus, Crown and Tennis Ball Cricket are fine to use, but aren’t really comparable to the top test standard balls.
Best ways to store or maintain the balls
To keep cricket balls performing at their best, follow these storage tips:
- Keep unused balls in a temperature controlled environment around 20C. Avoid excess heat or moisture.
- Return balls to carry case or ball bag after use to avoid knocks.
- wipe mud or dirt off balls after use with a dry cloth. Don’t use soap or detergents which can dry out the leather.
- Use ball conditioner like Kookaburra Boss to replenish oils and moisture occasionally. Massage in gently.
- For Dukes, knock the ball evenly on concrete to slightly raise nap for more swing.
- Check balls regularly for cuts, abrades or open stitching and discard those ones. They’ll behave erratically.
With some basic maintenance, a quality Dukes or Kookaburra ball will last many matches and hold its color and shape well.
How a new one compares to an older one.
When brand new out of the box, Dukes and Kookaburra balls look and feel pristine.
- The leather is smooth, flexible and unmarked.
- The prominent, upright seam is perfectly stitched
- The color is deep red and unblemished
With age and use, balls start to deteriorate:
- The leather surface scuffs up and goes dull
- Seam loosens slightly with fuzzing on the stitches
- Color fades to more pinkish and less vibrant red
- Ball goes soft with less bounce and pace off the pitch
While an older ball loses polish and sheen, the tradeoff is it moves more in the air, and grips more off the pitch. So bowlers can get more swing and spin compared to a new ball.
Each stage of ball age has benefits – perfect shine when new, then greater movement as it ages. Skilled bowlers utilise this through the innings.
The Dukes and Kookaburra cricket balls have similarities, but differ in size, weight, materials and performance.
Dukes offer more swing and a softer feel while Kookaburras bounce higher and zip off the pitch. Each ball suits different conditions and match circumstances.
Top players adapt their game to maximise the strengths of either ball. With quality materials and craftsmanship, both the Dukes and Kookaburra are trusted and revered in the cricket world as the premier balls for serious play.