The sound of leather on willow is a quintessential sound of summer, but UK researchers have suggested leather on bamboo could be the future.
A Cambridge University study indicated that a prototype bamboo cricket bat had a larger sweet spot than a traditional willow blade, is stronger, more sustainable and cheaper to produce.
The lower cost could boost participation in countries such as India and China which have fewer financial resources, according to the research published in the Journal of Sports Engineering and Technology.
The study indicated that bamboo is 22 per cent stiffer than willow which increases the speed at which the ball leaves the bat.
Researchers said the sweet spot on their prototype performed 19 per cent better than that on a traditional willow bat and was closer to the toe.
"This is a batsman's dream," said Dr Darshil Shah, from Cambridge's Centre for Natural Material Innovation, who is a former member of Thailand's under-19 national cricket team.
"The sweet spot on a bamboo bat makes it much easier to hit a four off a yorker for starters, but it's exciting for all kinds of strokes.
"We'd just need to adjust our technique to make the most of it, and the bat's design requires a little optimisation too."
The investigations included microscopic analysis, video capture technology, computer modelling, compression testing, and testing for vibrations.
Players using bamboo bats would not feel any more vibration than with a willow bat, according to the research.
The study points out there is a shortage of good-quality willow, which takes up to 15 years to mature - mostly in England - to the point where the wood can be used to make cricket bats.
By contrast, the maturing age of Moso bamboo is five to six years and it grows abundantly in China, southeast Asia and South America.
"Cricket brings you really close to nature, you spend hours out in the field, but I think the sport can do a lot more for the environment by promoting sustainability," study co-author Ben Tinkler-Davies said.
"We've identified a golden opportunity to achieve that while also helping lower income countries to produce bats at lower cost."
The materials used to make cricket bats are regulated by the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC), the sport's governing body, and rules say "the blade shall consist solely of wood".
"Bamboo is a grass not a wood so there would need to be discussions with the MCC, but we think playing with a bamboo bat would be within the spirit of the game because it's a plant-based material and cane, a type of grass, is already used in the handle," Shah said.
"Tradition is really important but think about how much cricket bats, pads, gloves and helmets have already evolved.
"The width and thickness of bats have changed dramatically over the decades.
"So if we can go back to having thinner blades but made from bamboo, while improving performance, outreach and sustainability, then why not?"
The pair tested the sound of leather on bamboo and Tinkler-Davies insisted the frequency is "very similar" to willow, adding: "Whether you're playing or spectating, you wouldn't notice much of a difference.
The researchers hope to enter discussions with the MCC and leading bat manufacturers.
Australian Associated Press