Clearly, no game of cricket can take place without a ball and this is an essential piece of equipment. The cricket ball carries an intricate design and, with its seam in place around the circumference, it isn’t entirely spherical.
Balls can behave differently depending on the manufacturer and they now come in different colours depending on the format of the match in question. There is, therefore, far more to consider when it comes to the humble cricket ball.
Cricket Ball Specifications
While cricket has those differences in terms of colour and manufacturer, every match ball has to comply with certain specifications. For those who are practising or learning the game at junior level, there are exceptions but, in a match situation, all balls have to follow the relevant law.
In regards to weight and size, cricket balls will differ depending on age groups. The following lists the relevant specifications as of 2021.
Mens and Boys Cricket from age 13 upwards: Balls should weigh between 5.5 and 5.75 ounces (156 to 163 grammes). The circumference of the ball should be between 8.91 and 9 inches. (224 to 229 millimetres)
Women and Girls Cricket age 13 and above: Cricket balls must weigh between 4.94 and 5.31 ounces (140 to 151 grammes). The circumference must be between 8.25 to 8.88 inches (210 to 226 millimetres).
Children Under 13: The ball should weigh between 4.69 to 5.06 ounces (133 to 143 grammes). The circumference should be between 8.06 to 8.69 inches (205 to 221 millimetres)
For much younger players, it’s recommended that a plastic ball or one of the training balls which are covered later in this section, is used.
In terms of the structure, the inner core of the ball consists of a sphere made from cork. Around this, string is tightly woven and a leather casing is applied all around the ball. The leather is traditionally made from four quarter pieces. Two parts are stitched together internally while the rest are bound together by the ball’s prominent seam. The seam is raised slightly and there are six lines of stitching around the circumference.
Professional Cricket Balls
Cricket Ball Manufacturers
There are a number of cricket ball producers around the world but only a limited number are approved to provide balls for the professional game. Among these are Kookaburra which is an Australian brand most commonly used in ODI, T20 and test matches in Australia and most other cricket playing nations.
There are two notable exceptions to that general rule: In England, games are played at all professional levels using the Dukes cricket ball. Meanwhile, in India, the SG ball is the one that is in common use.
The balls are all similar as they have to conform to the overall laws governing their size and weight. One difference with the Kookaburra ball concerns its seam which has a tendency to deteriorate after around 20 to 30 overs. It can, therefore, stop swinging quite early and it can be difficult for the spinners to grip.
In contrast, the seam on the Dukes ball lasts for longer and it is a preferred option for seam and swing bowlers. Finally, the SG ball is almost exclusively used in India. It loses its shine fairly quickly and, for that reason, spinners prefer the ball while seamers get little benefit from swing.
Red Leather Balls
The red leather cricket ball was the original ball and, for decades, it was the only type of ball in use for all matches. In the modern day, red balls are now solely used for daytime first class and test cricket.
The manufacturing process starts with that cork centre, followed by tightly bound string and the dyed red leather casing. Red balls generally tend to be more durable and their contrasting colour makes them easier for umpires and players to spot them.
White Leather Balls
The white cricket ball is now in use for all limited overs matches around the world. Whether it’s a one day 50 over match or a Twenty20 contest, the white leather ball is in official use. Originally, white balls were brought in for one day games which were played under floodlights as they were easier to see than the traditional red.
In time, things have changed and white leather balls are now used for all limited overs matches, irrespective of the time of day at which they are played.
The manufacturing process for white balls is exactly the same as the red versions but the limited overs balls tend to behave differently. Early in a match, there can be a tendency for the white balls to swing more but this phenomenon quickly starts to disappear. White balls can also deteriorate more quickly and, after around 30-40 overs, they can become discoloured and difficult for players to see.
For these reasons, a rule change came into force relating to ODI cricket. The fielding side now has two new balls at the start of the 50-Over innings. Those balls are to be split between each end and are retained by the square leg umpire when not in use.
Pink Leather Balls
The newest addition to the list of official cricket balls is the pink leather ball. This is now in general use for test matches and first class games which are played on a day/night basis.
Day/night cricket games had been trialled since 2009 at first class level while the first ever test match to be played under these conditions took place in 2015. These games start in daylight but are scheduled to progress through dusk and into the night, under floodlights.
Cricket’s governing body needed to make a decision regarding the colour of the ball. It was decided that the players would wear traditional white clothing during day/night matches so that ruled out the use of a white leather ball. Use of the red leather ball was also unacceptable as it was difficult for fielders, batsmen and spectators to see the ball in night time conditions.
As an effective compromise, a pink ball was devised. It’s a very bright pink and can therefore be seen at all times of the day. In addition, it’s also a neutral colour and won’t clash with any clothing worn by the players and umpires.
Pink leather balls are more durable than white balls and that combination of durability and visibility makes them a perfect option for those day/night matches.
Cricket Balls for Practise
At junior level and for seniors’ training, a number of alternatives to traditional leather cricket balls are available. These include:
Cricket Tennis Ball
Tennis balls are very versatile and have been used in impromptu games of cricket for many years. In school playgrounds, a tennis ball is ideal because it’s soft, causes less damage and has a good bounce on hard surfaces.
In the modern era, tennis balls are used in a more official, practise capacity and they now come in a number of different designs. In fact, there are some manufacturers who solely produce tennis balls for use within a cricketing environment.
Different weights and designs are used to produce hard and soft balls. The harder balls can more accurately replicate cricket match conditions while softer balls are more prevalent in friendly, ‘fun’ cricket activities. Balls generally come in two colours – traditional tennis green and a red version to more accurately match a regular cricket ball.
A rubber ball is another product that can be used either for training or in friendly games of cricket. The design will typically include a seam although this will do little to affect the ball’s performance in terms of movement in the air or off the pitch.
Rubber balls are very durable and there should be no issues with wear and tear during the course of a practise match. However, they will tend to last for around ten days on average and are likely to need replacing after this time.
The rubber used in the manufacturing process is firm but it isn’t too hard. Therefore, the bounce is true and not so pronounced that the balls are unusable in a match situation. Protective equipment is recommended to avoid injuries for both batsmen and close in fielders.
Synthetic Cricket Ball
A synthetic ball is made from composite materials and is generally seen as an ideal option for those who are new to cricket. It looks and feels a little like plastic and, with a seam added, it looks more like a cricket ball than other options.
The synthetic ball is, however, much lighter and it can get players used to the game with much less risk of injury. Synthetic balls will generally come in traditional red although there are white alternatives. Other balls are red on one side and white on the other.
A synthetic ball can be used in a training match situation but its primary purpose is to practise catching and fielding. It’s unlikely that these balls will be used at professional level but adult amateurs may use synthetic balls for training in those fielding and catching disciplines.
This type of ball is made entirely from cork, both in its internal sphere and on its surface. With a stitched seam added, it looks exactly like a traditional leather cricket ball from a distance but there is a key difference.
Unlike the leather alternative, a cork ball is not going to produce swing when it is delivered and, therefore, it isn’t one that favours the bowlers. Batsmen may use a cork ball simply for training purposes when they know that there is unlikely to be any unusual bounce or movement.
Cricket is a game where there is supposed to be a good balance between bat and ball and that’s why cork is only used for training and not in a match situation. In addition, cork is not very durable and the balls would need to be frequently replaced if they were used for professional or amateur cricket matches.
In general, tape balls are made on an unofficial basis for fun games of cricket around the world. In fact, there are organised games and leagues taking place in certain countries.
A tape ball is traditionally made by taking a tennis ball and tightly wrapping some electrical tape around it. As a result, it’s quite hard and there is some resemblance to a traditional cricket ball in that respect.
There is no seam but the construction allows for a tape ball to swing quite prodigiously. Its use is prevalent in Pakistan where tape ball cricket is said to have originated in the 1960s. Pakistan has produced some of the greatest swing bowlers in test cricket so there is an obvious link here.
Tape balls are generally made on an ad hoc and amateur basis by players who are looking to set up a game. Over time, things have become more organised and tape balls used in official matches have to conform to certain uniform standards.
Tape balls aren’t commonly used in training situations but there are scenarios where batsmen could use them in order to practise their skills against swing bowling.
All cricket matches need a ball but there is so much more to manufacture than just producing a leather sphere. The very process of manufacturing a ball is an intricate and complex one and all balls must meet those exact specifications.
The development of the sport has also led to that choice of colours. The traditional red leather ball was used for centuries but innovations in limited overs and night time cricket has seen the white and pink balls added to the list.
In a match situation, all balls are fairly uniform irrespective of their colour. There are those specifications relating to weight and circumference which are to be followed and enforced by the match officials.
In training scenarios, there are many balls in use which can be used for practise matches or to train on certain aspects of the game.