It’s central to the game and we couldn’t play without it but how much do we know about the history of the cricket ball?
Who Invented the Cricket Ball?
History doesn’t give us an individual name here. We know that the balls used in the 18th century looked very similar to the ones that are played with today.
What we do know is that Duke and Sons were the first to receive a royal patent for the manufacture of those balls. Therefore, they are the first mass producers.
First Manufactured Cricket Balls
1775 was the year that Duke and Sons received that royal patent from King George IV. For the 1780, their six seam ball was used for the first time and Dukes cricket balls are still in use today.
Up until the outbreak of the second world war, Dukes were the predominant brand across the world. From the late 1940’s onwards, the Kookaburra name began to break away and earn important contracts in Australia.
In the present day, Dukes, Kookaburra and SG are the three main brands of cricket ball used in the professional game.
Until 1977: Traditional Red Cricket Ball
From the dawn of cricket right through to 1977, cricket balls only came in red. Tradition has a part to play in this and that’s part of the reason why red balls were used in both first class cricket and the early versions of limited overs games in the 1970s.
Red balls have a number of benefits: They are easy to see against white clothing and the background of a white sightscreen. They are also hard wearing and will generally be used for 80 overs during test and first class cricket.
Depending on the surface and overhead conditions, the red ball will swing more throughout the course of its life cycle. It also has a more pronounced seam than the white alternative and this helps the seam bowlers to be more effective.
The seam also helps the spinners. The red ball has a better chance of gripping on the surface and turning into or away from the batter. In summary, the red ball is more versatile than the other options but there are very good reasons why different colours are used in other forms of cricket.
The advent of the white cricket call can be traced back to Kerry Packer and his World Series Cricket. The Australian businessman and TV mogul felt that the game needed to be shaken up. Players began to wear different coloured clothing from the traditional white.
As part of the whole ‘circus’ as it was dubbed in some parts of the media, the white cricket ball came into being. With games being played at night under floodlights, the traditional red ball was almost impossible to see.
The white ball has other qualities, and it can swing more prodigiously than its red counterpart in the early overs. It can deteriorate more quickly so it’s not suitable for test cricket but is fine for limited overs games.
In the present day we now have a third different coloured ball. Pink has become the option for day / night test cricket. Pink balls are easier to see than red ones under the lights, but they are more durable than the white versions.
It’s interesting to follow the evolution of the cricket ball from the point of its invention through to the modern day. The game continues to develop and, with new innovations, we’ve seen the need for new coloured balls.
Will there be an addition to red, white and pink in the future? It’s impossible to say but we certainly shouldn’t rule anything out.