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Does the white ball behave differently?

England seamer Tim Bresnan bowls with a white ball at the ICC World Twenty20 in 2010
The white ball is made the same way as the red one

A cricket ball is round and hard, right?

Well, not exactly.

Many players claim the white balls used for limited-overs games have more swing and more sting than the more traditional cherry-red ones.

We did a little digging to find out more...

Why were white balls introduced in the first place?

White balls are used in limited-overs matches that usually require the team batting second to play their innings under floodlights.

Under these conditions a white ball is easier to see than a red one.

Is there a difference in the way they are made?
The materials used to make cricket balls are the same now as in the 1700s.

All cricket balls are made from cork and latex rubber on the inside with leather on the outside.

But white balls show up scuffs and blemishes more than red ones.

So they have a harder-wearing coating to stop them getting dirty.

What do the manufacturers say?

Leading cricket ball manufacturers Kookaburra supply the balls for most one-day internationals.

They insist the only difference between the two types of ball is the colour.

England spinner Ashley Giles bowls under floodlights at net practice in 2003
The evening conditions can also help the ball to swing

They say the two balls are manufactured from the same materials in exactly the same way.

"The various processes that are involved in making the white ball are similar in every aspect to the way the red ball is made," said Stuart Waterton, brand manager of Kookaburra Sport UK.

"They go down the same production line with the only variation being the colour of the leather.

"A great deal of effort and emphasis is placed on ensuring that the performance characteristics of the balls are the same," he added.

But what do the people that really matter - the cricket players - think?

They say white balls are just not the same as red ones.

They claim white balls have more sting and more swing!

They say the red ones have a more leathery texture while the glassy finish on the white version makes them behave differently when bowled.

As well as being harder (apparently six bats were broken when the New Zealand team tested the white ball out), they also swung more according to some players.

Is this a bad thing?

For spin bowlers, possibly. The extra shine on the ball will affect their grip and the way the ball acts on the pitch.

Medium-pacers and fast bowlers will be fine as long as they can control the swing.

Is there any evidence to suggest the white ball swings more?

New Zealand pensioner Brian Wilkins, a keen amateur bowler, has been looking into claims that the white balls swing more than the red ones.

A pink ball
MCC has recently experimented with pink balls

Firing a mixture of balls from a specially-made bowling machine he found the white balls deviated from a straight path much more than the red ones.

But the manufacturers are still not convinced.

They say the difference in swing is more to do with the different conditions in which the balls are used.

"It is more likely that is an optical illusion, being the difference in the conditions under which both forms of the game are played," said Kookaburra's Weston.

Because a white ball becomes discoloured towards the end of a 50-over one-day innings, making it difficult for the batsman to pick out, current International Cricket Council regulations state that after 34 overs, the ball must be changed for one of similar age, that has been cleaned and rewhitened.

Recent experiments have featured pink balls, as the cricket authorities look for a ball which is highly visible under floodlights, but will allow the players still to wear whites.

Their first high-profile use was in the MCC v Durham game played in Abu Dhabi at the start of the 2010 county season.

see also
Pink ball makes debut at Lord's
21 Apr 08 |  Cricket
Pink balls set for one-day trials
13 Nov 07 |  Cricket

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