Playing cricket can deter young people from joining gangs and committing crime, research suggests.
The report on StreetChance, which offers cricket sessions for pupils in deprived areas, found it enabled them to mix in different social groups.
It found being part of a team or club helped divert youngsters away from crime and anti-social behaviour.
The study was carried out by the think tank and consultancy for charities New Philanthropy Capital.
It assessed the impact of scheme’s weekly cricket sessions for deprived youngsters in seven urban areas of England by surveying 433 of its participants aged eight to 18.
It also reviewed current research on the benefits of community sports programmes.
The scheme, run by the Cricket Foundation charity and banking group Barclays, also offers informal classes on topics such as gangs, knife crime and drug abuse.
The results chimed with earlier research suggesting participation in sports could have a positive impact on mental and physical health.
There is also evidence being involved in sport can boost the self-esteem and reduce the social anxiety of shy children.
The report found although most of the young people who took part in the project had positive social attitudes, there was a “small but significant group who are at risk of committing crime and anti-social behaviour”.
About 10% to 20% of those who responded said they were quite similar to their peers involved in gangs, saying they are “just like me” or “quite like me”.
The study concluded the cricket scheme cut the likelihood these young people would commit offences, by offering them an alternative activity and reducing their opportunities to behave badly.
It added the scheme exposed this high-risk group to new people outside their normal networks who could influence them to act in more positive ways.
The report added: “StreetChance can provide a safe haven for the majority of children and young people who hold generally pro-social attitudes, thereby reducing the risk that any of them will get involved in crime and anti-social behaviour over time.”
StreetChance operations manager Richard Joyce said the scheme was also having a positive impact on a small but significant group of young people at risk of getting involved in crime and anti-social behaviour.
“It diverts them away from negative influences and introduces them to positive role models and supportive peers,” he said.