The Chance to shine scheme hopes to involve two million pupils
Cricket can boost pupils' confidence, foster a team spirit and improve health in schools, research suggests.
Pupils involved in an initiative run by the Cricket Foundation were fitter, more "sportsmanlike" and had better social skills, a study found.
The Chance to Shine cricket scheme aims to bring the sport to two million children in England and Wales by 2015.
Analysis of the scheme by researchers at Loughborough university also found it could help tackle truancy.
The researchers surveyed more than 300 pupils who took part in the scheme and spoke to teachers and cricket coaches.
They also conducted case studies of schools and clubs taking part in the scheme.
One Year 6 pupil told researchers: "The running really helped me a lot in other sports because when we were doing relays - like we do in the cricket exercise -when we're running it helps me with it, get better and get fitter."
Teachers said the programme had encouraged positive changes in pupils in the classroom, saying cricket sessions had reduced disruptive behaviour during class and encouraged pupils to act more responsibly.
One teacher said: "We take them out of school and I know that I can trust their behaviour within those situations to play the cricket matches... a lot of our best players are the ones who do have some behaviour difficulties."
Girls and truancy
The research also found the scheme helped girls gain a confidence in sport.
One Year 6 girl said: "It's like everyone says, girls can't do cricket, they are no good at boys' sports, but we are doing it and we are really good.
"We keep winning all the time and it has made the boys realise we can be as good as them."
The report suggested the scheme may help to cut truancy - more than half of the pupils questioned said they enjoyed and looked forward to school when a cricket session was taking place, compared to a third (36%) when it is not.
Report author Dr Ruth Jeanes said: "While Chance to Shine is undoubtedly having a positive impact on general cricket provision and the development of opportunities for young people, its contribution to improving the social well-being of many of its participants illustrates that it is much more than just a cricket development initiative."
Wasim Khan, chief executive of the Cricket Foundation, said: "The news that Chance to Shine is having a major impact on our schools, teachers and pupils is fantastic.
"We will continue to strive to give as many young people the opportunity to play and be educated through cricket."