Bowling coach raises concerns over lack of swing
IT WAS a subtle slap from Aussie bowling coach David Saker that should be enough to ensure England doesn't get a leg-up for next year's Ashes.
The Kookaburra cricket ball, which last summer was soft and too easily whacked out of shape, is not swinging again this year.
And it's not the pink one, which remains a work in progress, but the red one that is the issue.
Cricket Australia knows it hasn't swung consistently for some time and early next year the English-made Dukes ball will be turning around corners in Sheffield Shield games when state teams start using it.
It was a plan with a two-fold premise initiated to help prepare Australia's next group of Ashes batsmen for English conditions, but also as a rocket to Kookaburra, which is on more of a handshake agreement as ball supplier, to get their product up to standard.
Given the Aussies don't go back to England, where they haven't won a series since 2001, until 2019, the secondary issue seems to be more pressing.
Saker brought it up after day two at the MCG when he was asked about Mitchell Starc's struggles to bowl an inswinger, one of his major weapons.
"He hasn't bowled it consistently as he would have liked. Sometimes the ball has got something to do with that,” said Saker, who was bowling coach for England in winning Ashes campaigns.
"The ball hasn't swung that much for any bowler. I have noticed it all summer, there hasn't been a huge amount of swing. There has been a little bit of seam movement, but not huge amounts of swing.
"Sometimes it's not always about the bowler, sometimes it's about the ball.”
Last summer there were significant issues too, both here and overseas with Kookaburra balls.
One ball lasted six overs in Perth before having to be changed, and amid continued issues at the WACA, that whole batch was sent for testing. Those tests revealed no abnormalities.
In New Zealand one Kookaburra ball lasted only seven deliveries in a Test against Sri Lanka, and officials fired off a complaint.
Until Saker's comments, however, there had been no official noise this year about the balls.
Kookaburra officials know last year wasn't great, but believe the Test matches, and Sheffield Shield games too, have been even contests so far.
"The feedback we've had thus far this season is that balls have improved,” a Kookaburra spokesperson said.
"We've seen momentum changes between batters and bowlers in every Test, which would usually tell us that the ball is not a factor dictating the pattern of matches.”
But that doesn't mean the ball has swung.
The Dukes balls, which are used in Test cricket only in England, will be rolled out after the Big Bash, when state teams come back together.
And it would be folly for CA to bring them in to use for next year's Ashes. But in seasons beyond, if the Kookaburra can't swing don't doubt a move will be made.