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Rob Key says Kookaburra ball trial in county cricket can help England enjoy great era in international cricket

Rob Key on the use of the Kookaburra ball in county cricket: "The truth is that England have been a middling Test team for 40-plus years. I want us to go out there and be the best team in the world and have a really good era... and it's about trying to find ways of doing that"

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Rob Key, managing director of England men's cricket, explains the reasoning behind the use of the Kookaburra ball for the first two rounds of the County Championship, which has drawn criticism.

Rob Key stands by his move to introduce the Kookaburra ball into county cricket, saying it will aid England's quest to become the best in the world in international cricket.

Speaking on the latest Sky Sports Cricket Podcast, the managing director of the England men's team addressed criticism of the ball's use over the traditional Dukes in the opening two rounds of the County Championship season.

The switch to the Kookaburra ball, predominantly used for cricket played overseas, was recommended in Sir Andrew Strauss' high-performance review in 2022 and was trialled last year.

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England men's managing director Rob Key tells the Sky Sports Cricket Podcast that they need to be flexible with Jofra Archer as they try to guide him back to full fitness from injury.

This season it will be used for four rounds of fixtures, returning in September, but of the first 18 matches for which it has been used this summer, only one - Essex's win over Nottinghamshire in the first week of the season - produced a result. The 17 others ended in draws, albeit with some also affected by the weather.

The Kookaburra ball has a less ­prominent seam and goes softer earlier, making it a tougher prospect for bowlers to master than the Dukes, which greater assists seam and swing bowling.

"My view is, the better the conditions for batting, the more you find out about your bowlers," Key told Sky Sports. "Bowlers are so important winning games. Batsmen set up games and bowlers are the ones that win it.

"I also believe that for us to have a great era of English cricket, which everyone in these sorts of jobs wants, it's about bowlers and being able to produce - not necessarily 95mph bowlers, but it's clear that for the best teams it's sort of 85mph plus.

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"In our domestic system, that's currently not a necessity. Over the last sort of 10-15 years, we've had conditions that have really suited medium pacers, especially bowlers under 80mph. These guys have run riot, including my good mate Darren Stevens .

"It has really rewarded that type of bowler, which is so far removed from what we need in Test cricket and one-day cricket. I wanted something that would replicate international conditions more."

One vocal critic of the switch has been Surrey director of cricket Alec Stewart, who previously told the Sky Sports Cricket Podcast "it's the worst decision ever."

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Speaking on the Sky Sports Cricket Podcast, former England captain Alec Stewart claimed the use of the Kookaburra ball in England is the 'worst decision ever'.

"Playing against a Kookaburra in England is nothing like playing against it in South Africa or Australia," Stewart said. "The surfaces are different.

"Our point of difference playing here is the Dukes ball, so why are we not playing here, being the best we can be with the Dukes ball, so that when the touring sides come over, we hammer them."

In terms of the criticism the switch has received, Key said: "I don't mean this to sound trite or anything, but if I listened to criticism from everyone all the time, especially on social media, I'd never do anything.

"My view is that we sort of think, in our home conditions, we dominate - which a lot of teams do at the moment - but the truth is that England have been a middling Test team for 40-plus years.

"I want us to go out there and be the best team in the world and have a really good era... and it's about trying to find ways of doing that."

The MD of England men's cricket also stressed that the switch is not purely with a view of producing a battery of identical fast bowlers, stating he wants a varied attack for the national team, ala the 2005 Ashes-winning squad.

Sam Cook, Essex (Getty Images)
Image: Sam Cook starred for Essex on the opening weekend of the County Championship, taking 10 wickets in their win over Nottinghamshire

"It's great watching high-skill bowlers - it's not just about pace - because what Sam Cook did against Notts [match figures of 10-73 in Essex's win]. He is around 80mph, but I thought 'this is pure skill' - a bit like [Vernon] Philander when he played.

"You need that varied attack but you need the bar to be raised higher with it.

"That 2005 attack, as good an attack as England's ever had, what did it have? It had [Steve] Harmison, high release point, quick, bounce; Freddie [Flintoff], slightly different angle, good pace; Simon Jones, skiddy, reverse-swing; and then you had [Matthew] Hoggard, who swung it at a different pace.

"It's not just about us being a one-trick pony or a one-dimensional team. I couldn't stand that.

"I want a varied attack... but we've not been looking for it as a country because the environment hasn't hasn't made it a necessity. We've been able to get away with running up and dobbing it on a length and the ball just does the rest.

"That's detrimental for batsmen, bowlers, spinners, everyone in the game bar the medium pacers. That's my view."

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