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New balls please: ECB ready for bowler-friendly Ashes

Ashley Giles has instructed Dukes to produce a new batch for this summer’s Test cricket.

Jimmy Anderson will be hoping a new batch of Dukes balls will help him in this summer’s Ashes series. (John Walton/PA)
Jimmy Anderson will be hoping a new batch of Dukes balls will help him in this summer’s Ashes series. (John Walton/PA)

England have paved the way for a bowler-friendly Ashes series by requesting prominent seams on their next batch of Test balls, but Ashley Giles insists there is no stitch up in the new stitching.

The England and Wales Cricket Board has instructed manufacturer Dukes to produce 500-600 balls to the same specification used in the past two summers after deciding the 2019 design did not offer enough to pacemen.

The governing body had requested tighter wound seams for this year’s Specsavers County Championship after batsmen endured a torrid time last season.

But after assessing the opening rounds, Giles, the managing director of men’s cricket, became concerned the balance had shifted too far the other way.

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England have called for a new batch of Dukes balls for this summer’s Ashes. (Nick Potts/PA)

The news is likely to be music to the ears of England’s leading seamers James Anderson and Stuart Broad, who were among a group of senior players consulted.

Giles has made it clear, however, his motivation was to produce good cricket, not maximising home advantage.

“People will say that, but that’s why we want to be on the front foot. We didn’t want to appear as though we were doing this underhandedly,” he said.

“I’ve spoken to Cricket Australia, they were fine, and I’ve spoken to Cricket Ireland (who play at Lord’s in July). It’s our decision but it’s important we made contact with them.

“It’s not as though we’re talking about playing against a bowling attack that isn’t very good. The Aussies are quite handy themselves.

“There are elements of risk in choosing to go with this other ball. But clearly Jimmy Anderson is one of our best weapons, one of the best bowlers who has ever played the game, and we want to bring him into the game. We just want to be up front and honest.”

Australia are not unfamiliar with the ball after using an identical specification during last year’s Sheffield Shield tournament.

Jimmy Anderson is one of our best weapons, one of the best bowlers who has ever played the game, and we want to bring him into the game. Ashley Giles

With quicks like Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood and James Pattinson at their disposal, they will relish the contest.

Chief executives at this year’s five Ashes grounds – Edgbaston, Lord’s, Headingley, Old Trafford and the Oval – may be more fretful as they ponder the possibility of filling their stands for a full five days.

“Test cricket has definitely sped up in the last few years but it’s not about having a two-day game,” said Giles.

“It’s about having a fair contest. My concern was that this 2019 ball would make conditions too batter friendly on good Test wickets in the middle of summer.”

PA

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