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Before every Ashes series there is no end to the speculation and debate that surrounds the players’ balls, and this year is no different. Many have questioned how the England bowlers’ balls will cope in the humid Australian conditions.
“I have to say, I prefer the balls I play with at home,” said England’s baby-faced bowler Stuart Broad, “They get much warmer over here in Oz and that can affect how they hang in the air. David [Saker] said it’s important that I don’t allow my balls to drop to quickly, but at the end of the day I’m knocking my balls towards a bloke 22 yards away from me. Whether he really gives them a whack or gently cushions them back towards me, they’re still round and red.” Saker has been making full use of his pointer this week to analyse diagrams of Broad’s balls.
In order to decipher why Broad was lacking confidence ahead of the series, Sport Distort turned to a man who has displayed some of the greatest balls in English Cricket – Sir Ian Botham. Beefy explained that: “The Aussies’ balls are much firmer than your typical English balls. I reckon England are really going to have to focus hard on their balls if they want to retain the Ashes; but in the end, with a bit of spit and elbow grease, I don’t think the side will have any problem swinging them in and out.”
However, it would appear that it’s not just the bowlers that are getting in on the balls debate. England wicket keeper Matt Prior reportedly told the press this week: “Jimmy Anderson has tossed a few in my direction and the balls feel fine in my hands,” although he did add that “not all the players wear leather gloves when handling them.”
England openers Andrew Strauss and Alistair Cook had a lot to say on how the Aussies balls might affect them when they get out into the middle. Strauss said: “The Australian bowlers are some of the world’s greatest when it comes to moving their balls after release. They have a lot more verve than usual, which won’t help when you have someone like Mitchell Johnson trying to bounce them up onto your chin,” before Cook added: “If I can just get some wood on Ben Hilfenhaus’ balls I’d be a happy man.”
It will definitively be interesting to see how the bowlers cope with their balls, but what is guaranteed is that over the next few weeks there will be some magnificent balls on show. Let’s just hope that the debate doesn’t prompt any unnecessary and frankly obvious innuendo based jokes on the subject.