The England men’s cricket team became leaner and fitter than ever before in the lead-up to their 2019 victory over New Zealand in the sport’s World Cup final, according to a study.
Researchers were granted access by the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) to explore how the team’s physical profile changed from 2014 to 2020.
A team from the University of Essex and St Mary’s University analysed data from 52 senior players, who all took part in at least one Test, One-Day or Twenty20 internationally-sanctioned match.
Their physique, power and speed were retrospectively studied across a seven-year period.
Research indicated there were no significant changes in body mass during this time, but there was a drop in body fat and a likely increase in lean mass and aerobic capacity.
By monitoring the skin-fold thickness, the research found players had 18% less body fat than at the start of the study.
The study also found fitness levels had substantially increased.
In a yo-yo test which measures cardiovascular capability, the distance the players were able to run increased by 19%.
There was an increase in pull strength capacity that was targeted by the physical performance and medical teams across this time period.
It also emerged the push-to-pull strength of the international cricketers was more balanced, which may help to reduce injury risk.
The study, published in the International Journal of Sports Science and Coaching, described the changes as a “notable physical transformation”.
Dr Jamie Tallent, from the University of Essex’s School of Sport, Rehabilitation, and Exercise Sciences, said: “For the first time we have evidence of improvement in the athleticism of the England men’s cricket team.
“With the investment in sport science and medicine provision by the ECB, it is great to see that this is having a real benefit on physical fitness of the England cricket team.
“It was a real privilege to work closely with some of the world’s best players and find out what makes them perform at the highest level.
“We have scientifically examined one of the reasons how England managed to pull off the dramatic World Cup victory, which in no small part was due to their incredible conditioning.
“It is clear that the physical requirements to be an international cricketer are extremely high and this looks to continue to develop.”
Dr Tallent and his team will now be extending the study to the women’s team, where they will be looking at the match demands of international cricket.
The study is hoped to further support the optimising of the physical preparation of cricketers to maximise performance in international matches.
Rob Ahmun, ECB national lead strength and conditioning coach, said: “It’s been a pleasure to have Dr Tallent and his colleagues assist the ECB with this project.
“The physical demands of the game have increased considerably in recent years and it’s important that players are able to not only cope but thrive under the physical pressures of playing international cricket.”