VIDEO: Australian scientists examine a traditional willow cricket bat to find out what makes a good one

Brad Haddin (Centre) saw a bat in half. Dr Mohammad Saadatfar (L) and Jin Tao (R). IMAGE: ANU

Physicists are for the first time studying English willow at the cellular level to help understand what makes a top quality cricket bat.

And the researchers at the Australian National University (ANU) have sought the advice of wicket-keeper Brad Haddin for their high technology study.

Haddin, who is preparing for the test series against the West Indies and Australia’s defence of the Ashes in England, visited the research lab in Canberra to give his expert opinions on bat quality.

“It’s great to be back at the university where I started my cricket career, and to make a contribution to a research project like this,” Haddin said. “It is good to be able to contribute to maybe the perfect cricket bat as well.”

See a high resolution animation of the inside of a cricket bat:

Haddin, who played for ANU cricket club in the 1990s, tested an English willow bat and then one of Kashmir willow, which is considered to be an inferior bat material.

After hitting a number of balls he sawed one of the bats in half to kick off the scientists’ sample preparation.

The willow samples will be analysed with an CT scanning technique developed for material research at ANU.

Top quality bats are made from the female of only one particular species of English willow tree.

“We would love to find an alternative to English willow which would make top quality bats more accessible for kids in developing countries,” says Dr Mohammad Saadatfar from ANU Research School of Physics and Engineering.

“There is no reason why every kid in the world shouldn’t play with a top quality cricket bat.”

The project is complex. Willow is porous with criss-crossing fibres which give it the mechanical strength required for withstanding its own weight as well as the wind.

Willow has pockets of air trapped inside the cells, which deform elastically when the cricket ball hits it, giving it unique resilient properties.