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County Championship 2024

Rob Key: English cricket would be better off if we used the Kookaburra all the time

Rob Key has called for the Kookaburra to be used across the County Championship season
by Wisden Staff 3 minute read

Managing director of the England men’s team Rob Key has called for the Kookaburra ball to be used for the whole of the County Championship season.

The Kookaburra was trialled in two rounds of the 2023 Championship and returned for the opening two rounds of the 2024 season. It will be used again for another two rounds of fixtures later in the season. While there has been some criticism of the trial, with no results across both divisions in the second round, Key has been pleased with what he’s seen from it.

“I think it’s been fantastic,” said Key. “You see what four-day cricket is meant to be. I’ve watched quite a bit this week and seen some bloody good cricket. I would use the Kookaburra all the time. English cricket would be much better off for it.

“The weather has got in the way at times and seven of those nine matches [in round two] could have seen a result. But county cricket is meant to go four days. This week has shown it’s rewarding the right type of players. Cricket is about watching pace bowlers, spinners and really good batting. Four days is about the journey.”

The move to use the Kookaburra ball is with an eye to develop bowlers with skills and experience to bowl with it at international level, as well as to encourage fast scoring and bring spinners into the county game more in the early season. Spinners have had an increased role in the first two rounds this year, with 80 wickets falling to spin so far in Division One. Surrey have already bowled more overs of spin this year than they did across the whole of last season, despite only one bowling innings being possible in their opening fixture.

While seamers have had a more difficult time, there have been outliers who have found success. Sam Cook took a ten-wicket-haul in Essex’s opening game against Nottinghamshire, which is still the only result possible so far this season.

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“The pitches are slow this time of year but watching medium pacers is a waste of time,” said Key. “Teams need to find quicker bowlers or ones who will force a wicket. You can’t just keep running up bowling at 75mph. And in terms of those guys who are not express, you really work out who can bowl. Sam Cook, that was seriously impressive what he did.”

High scores have also been a feature of the early rounds. Warwickshire scored 698-3 in their first innings against Durham at Edgbaston. Durham were asked to follow on despite scoring 517 in their reply, with Matt Potts registering a maiden first-class century in their second innings.

“That [Warwickshire game] looked a turgid [slow] pitch but [Potts and Carse] are much better equipped for international cricket than if they bowled on English snakepits with a Dukes ball moving all over the place,” said Key. “The best bowlers come from the flattest pitches.

“Why do we think in India their batters come into the Test side averaging 70 [in the Ranji Trophy]? Do you think they’re playing with a little nibbly Dukes ball where it’s doing all sorts? What do we want to be? I want us to be the best team in the world for a generation; this will be one way to do that.”

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