At first-class level, the cricket ball is heavily regulated by cricket law but when the desire to play strikes, almost any roundish object will do. In its most common form, a cricket ball is made from layers of twine wound around a cork core, inside a red leather shell. A raised seam of six rows of stitching gives the ball a number of unique aerodynamic qualities, and helps determine its swing, cut and spin.
The condition of the ball is also an important and closely regulated aspect of the game. The ball can be polished, dried and cleaned of mud (but only in certain ways). Its gradual deterioration through the course of the game is also important. Only one ball can be used at a time, and if lost, damaged or ‘illegally modified’, it must be replaced with a used ball of similar condition.
This sectioned ball shows the internal structure of a cricket ball. Like cricket bats, cricket balls are still made entirely of organic materials.
Cork core – gives the ball its shape and density
Twine layers – ensure the outside leather casing anchors to the cork, giving some flexibility to the surface
Leather – forms a durable but dynamic surface that changes through the course of the game
Seam – gives the bowler a point of leverage to impart swing, spin or ‘cut’. This forces the batter to anticipate sideways movement of the ball in the air or off the pitch
The fastest bowl ever recorded is 161.3 km/h (100.23 mph) by Shoaib Akhtar (Pakistan) against England on 22 February 2003 in a World Cup match at Newlands, Cape Town, South Africa. That’s faster than a Cheetah 113 km/h (70 mph)
Source: Guiness World Records
Grass cricket pitches are made on beds of selected soils that are malleable and able to be rolled flat into a uniform surface. For many years, soil used by the Sydney Cricket Ground was trucked in from the Bulli area north of Wollongong. This piece was souvenired by Don Bradman in 1930, the same year that he scored his world record 452 not out for NSW against Queensland at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
Until the introduction of World Series cricket in the 1970s, the red leather ball was the standard cricket ball and it remains the most common through all levels of cricket today. This ball from the 1947-48 Test series bears the signatures of Australian Captain Don Bradman and Indian Captain Lala Amarnath. Held only two months after India gained independence from Great Britain, the series was India’s first tour to Australia and was, in Bradman’s words, played in ‘the most wonderful spirit of camaraderie’.
World series cricket extended playing time into the night. White balls were introduced to improve visibility against coloured clothing and at night, and are now the standard for one-day games. But because the white leather deteriorates and loses its colour more quickly than the traditional red, two balls are needed for any one-day match. This ball was intended for the second innings of an exhibition match between South Africa and the Bradman XI held on Bradman Oval on 23 February 1992. It remains in pristine condition as only two overs were bowled by South Africa before the game was cancelled due to rain.
Used for 50 overs in an Under 19 England v Australia women’s game on Bradman Oval in 2003, this ball clearly shows how the surface and colour have been dramatically affected by play.
Cricket balls are often used as keepsakes or trophies recording bowling feats or significant matches. This ball records Australian wicketkeeper Kit Raymond’s debut Test played against New Zealand in Adelaide in January 1957; signed by several members of both teams. The ball used in women’s cricket is slightly smaller and lighter than the standard men’s ball. Juniors also play with a smaller ball.
Competition Blind Cricket has its beginnings in the 1920s, when it became popular among the large numbers of veterans who returned blind or partially blind from World War I. Wicker balls like this were used until 1972; the white plastic version was introduced in 2003. Both have bottle tops and metal weights inside to weight the ball and create noise when the ball is hit, rolled or thrown. Blind cricket at World Cup level was first played in Delhi in 1998 and is now held every four years.
Air flows more easily over a smooth, shiny surface, so a shiny ball will travel faster. Cricket law forbids any ‘external’ substance being applied to the ball, so bowlers typically moisten the ball with sweat or saliva and polish it against their clothes – the indent between leg and groin provides a particularly effective and popular location, often leaving a red mark on their pants.