A ground-breaking new study from one of the world’s leading sport’s institutions appears to have unlocked the answer to improving batting performances at elite level.

In a result that is set to change the face of the sport (perhaps literally) scholars at Loughborough University, England have seemingly unlocked the secret to enhanced batting performance across a range of disciplines.

The answer it seems is not practice alone, nor technical perfection, nor indeed raw talent.  The solution the evidence significantly suggests is to grow a beard!

Conducting a series of controlled tests and analysing thousands of performance results across decades of competition, experts at the UK’s leading sports science university have concluded that the addition of facial hair to a player who otherwise had been performing under clean-shaven conditions improves their batting performance by a staggering average of 28%

Responding to the results, Professor Michael Capes stated “It’s a fascinating outcome”.  “We had some suspicions from earlier studies that there may be some correlation between facial hair and performance but we could not possibly have expected to see the sort of consistent outcomes this extensive research has produced”.

Investigations have revealed that this may not be quite as revolutionary as it first appears.  In the mid 1980’s, following academic advice from the University of Western Australia a then ‘experimental’ strategy was adopted by the Australian cricket team during the Ashes series of 1982/83 with large numbers of the national team instructed by then captain Allan Border to partake in ‘Collective Hirsute Enhancement’ as a means of improving team performance.  Regretfully, despite improved batting averages and a series win, for reasons unknown the CHE policy, as it was then abbreviated, was dropped for the following series in the UK, a decision it now appears that may have been responsible for the loss of the urn in 1985.

Allan Border adopted the University of W.A’s research advice of ‘Collective Hirsute Enhancement’ for the national team in 1982/83

Senior Lecturer of Applied Sports Science at the University of Michigan supported the evidence produced by this report.   “In many ways it’s nothing new” he explained.  “From as early as the ancient Greeks, civilizations across the world have recognised the strengthening effects of male facial hair” he continued.  “Biblical tales of Samson to the legendary figures of Goliath have all featured the beard as symbols of hair growth in direct correlation to enhanced physical performance.”

“legendary figures {like} Goliath have all featured the beard as symbols of hair growth in direct correlation to enhanced physical performance”

Analysing the batting data from hundreds of international players across six decades, the team at Loughborough saw an uptake in batting scores, averages and run rate from 12% in those participants who played the majority of their career with facial hair against clean shaven individuals to an astonishing 28% rise for those who have adopted the facial fashion for short or long periods during their time within the national team.

Expanding further on individual cases, Professor Capes explained. “For particular examples of improvements in more recent England players, we need look no further than Jonny Bairstow, Ben Stokes and perhaps most interestingly Moeen Ali” he explained.  “The first of those two players have seen results enhanced by 15 and 17% respectively” he said “but, perhaps even more significantly is the data obtained from Moeen” he said. “Pre to post-beard analysis resulted in a 48% rise in batting averages, 67% increase in highest score and a 37% improvement in run/strike rate.”

Jonny Bairstow is amongst dozens of players to see an improvement in performance

Officials from the ECB are said to have requested a full copy of the report, with sources close to England Head Coach Ashley Giles suggesting that a compulsory ‘no-shaving’ policy for all batsman is being considered for the 2020 season

Moeen Ali saw a staggering 48% rise in his batting average

“They’re taking it very seriously” explained one of the governing body’s advisors.  “Anything that gives us an edge over the opposition is likely to be implemented” he stated

Former England captain and renowned strategist Mike Brearley commented “I think it’s long overdue” he said.   “It’s something I experimented with during my time with the England team.  In those days it was only rumoured to have an effect” he continued.  “It was the sort of thing you might discuss in bars after the game.  Something we thought was true but felt unsure as to whether we should put into practice.  Now that it’s been proven I feel a little aggrieved I didn’t adopt the policy for a greater part of mr career”

England Captain Mike Brearley regrets not adopting his beard policy sooner.

Further studies are now expected to be carried out at a number of leading research institutions over the coming months in an effort to validate the findings and help to provide some reasonings for the newly named  “beard-effect” but, with officials in football, baseball and American football said to be keeping a close eye on results, the sporting world is likely to get a great deal hairier in the months to come.

A spokesperson for the England Women’s team was unavailable for comment.