Tests carried out at Cambridge University have shown that bamboo cricket bats are stronger than traditional willow-made cricket bats, providing better “best batting points” and delivering more energy to the ball. Bamboo could help cricket develop faster in poorer parts of the world and make it greener, the study said.
Bamboo cricket bat prototype and section of bamboo. Credit: Ana Gatóo
Researchers at the Centre for Natural Materials Innovation at the University of Cambridge say the “sound of leather on the willow tree” may have delighted generations of cricket fans, but the sport should now consider making cricket bats out of bamboo.
Dr. Darshil Shah and Ben Tinkler-Davies compared the performance of a specially designed prototype laminated bamboo cricket bat, the first of its kind. Their research includes microscope analysis, video capture technology, computer modeling, compression testing, measuring how knocking improves surface hardness, and testing vibration.
The study, published Sunday in the journal Sports Engineering and Technology, found that bamboo is significantly stronger than willows — more than three times as strain when it fails — and can withstand higher loads, meaning the bat made from bamboo can be thinner while maintaining the same strength as willows. This will help the batsman, as lighter racquets can swing faster and pass more energy to the ball. The researchers also found that bamboo was 22 percent harder than willows, which also increased the speed at which the ball left the bat.
During the manufacturing process, the surface of the cricket bat is compressed to form a hardened layer. When the team compared the effects of the “knock-in” process on both materials, they found that after five hours, the surface hardness of the bamboo increased twice as much as the pressed willow.
Perhaps most excitingly, they found that the “best batting point” on their bamboo prototype batting board was 19 percent better than the “best batting point” on a traditional willow stick. The “best batting spot” is about 20mm wide and 40mm long, significantly larger than a typical willow bat and, better yet, closer to the toes.
The researchers also tested comfort and found that bamboo had a similar “damping ratio” to willows, meaning that when players hit the ball, similar forces were passed on to their hands. In other words, players with bamboo bats don’t feel more vibration than they do when trying out willow bats.
The study points out that the shortage of quality willows can take up to 15 years to mature – mainly in the UK – to the point where they can be used to make cricket bats. Even so, bat makers often have to throw away large amounts (up to 30%) of the wood they buy.
In contrast, Moso and Guadua, two of the most suitable structure bamboos, grow in large quantities in China, Southeast Asia, and South America. These bamboos mature twice as fast as willows, and because laminated materials have a more regular cellular structure, less raw material is wasted in the manufacturing process. Researchers believe that high performance, low-cost production, and higher sustainability can make bamboo cricket bats a viable and ethical alternative to willows.
Study co-author Ben Tinkler-Davies said. “Cricket gives you real access to nature and you spend hours on the pitch, but I think the sport can do more for the environment by promoting sustainability. We’ve identified a golden opportunity to do that, while also helping low-income countries produce bats at a lower cost. ”
In the 19th century, cricket bat makers experimented with various types of wood, but from the 1890s they began making bats from the edges of the light-colored willow, Salix Alba because of their high hardness, low density, and visual appeal. The use of sugar cane in cricket is limited to bat handles and mats.
Researchers worked with Garrard Flack, a local cricket bat maker, to create a full-size prototype of the bamboo stick. They first had to split the bamboo stalks (about 2.5 meters long), plan them flattened, and then stack, glue and laminate them into solid planks to cut them into different sizes. While this may sound laborious, laminated bamboo avoids the rolling process required to harden the willow tree. Bamboo’s cellular structure is naturally denser than that of willows.
The material used to make cricket bats is regulated by the sport’s governing body, the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC), which states: “The clubs shall be made entirely of wood.” ”
“Bamboo is not wood, so we need to talk to the MCC, but we think it’s in the spirit of the game to play with bamboo because it’s a plant material and sugar cane has been used on the handle,” Shah said. ”
For those who feel “this is not cricket,” Dr. Shah said. Tradition is really important, but think about how much cricket bats, tackles, gloves, and helmets have evolved. The width and thickness of the batter have changed dramatically over the decades. So if we can go back to having thinner leaves, but made of bamboo, while improving performance, promotion and sustainability, why not? ”