All about Cricket Bats

When purchasing a new cricket bat you should take into account many factors and when you part with your well-earned money you want to know exactly what you're buying. In order to avoid disappointment, it's best to be knowledgeable about what to expect from your cricket bat and what specification you are purchasing. This cricket bat guide is essential for all those who do not fully understand the various design features, qualities, materials and processes/services available. It has been constructed to help educate prospective customers so that you can purchase with peace of mind.

PRE-CONDITIONED/PRE-PREPARED BATS

The majority of manufacturers have developed a range of pre-conditioned or pre-prepared bats, which drastically reduce the bat preparation time for the customer. However, although some bats may claim to be 'match-ready', we strongly advise that you carry out the usual knocking-in process and practice with some slow deliveries with an old ball before using it in a competitive match situation - it is still the user's responsibility to ensure that the bat is fully prepared for game time. Beware: 'ready to play' does not mean invincible - you should still maintain, store and repair your cricket bat appropriately.

ANTI-SCUFF PROTECTED & COVERED BATS

Most cricket specialists recommend fitting a clear 'anti-scuff' sheet to the blade to help minimise the effects of minor knocks. Fitting a protective cover over the middle of the bat will not hinder performance but it may help to keep your bat fit for purpose for longer. As well as offering binding qualities to small cracks, a protective sheet also safeguards the blade from additional moisture being absorbed into the bat.

NATURAL FINISH

Most professional-quality cricket bats offer a natural, uncovered, traditional finish. But please be wary that some bats made from poor quality willow may be bleached to artificially imitate the colour of high-quality willow. Always be sure of the type of bat and the specification you are purchasing.

FIBRE TAPE

Wood glue and fibre tape are the best materials to help self-repair minor cracks. Fibre tape gently helps to bind the damaged area and is an essential yet forgettable item for the cricketer's kit bag.

NUMBER OF GRAINS

Please note that this should only be considered as a rough guideline as there are always exceptions, but, generally, a cricket bat with between 6 and 12 grains tends to be made from high quality willow. Cricket bats with only six grains, for example, are likely to be softer, which will lengthen both the knocking-in period and the time it takes for the bat to reach optimum performance.

WILLOW-LOOK SKIN

When analysing the amount of grains on a cricket bat you must be made aware that some low-cost cricket bats have a willow-look skin placed over the face of the bat. This is designed to give value cricket bats a classier look, but this technique could easily fool you into thinking you have bought a better bat than you have. Sometimes you can spot this skin by noticing that the natural back of the cricket bat has a much different grain pattern than the front of the bat where the skin is applied.

THE VARIOUS QUALITIES OF ENGLISH WILLOW

English willow cricket bats vary in standard.Due to the wealth of expertise required to turn a willow sapling into a tree suitable for cricket bat production, there are only a small collection of UK companies who are skilfully nurturing English willow for the entire world market.

Here is a guideline on how to judge the value of your blade:

Grade 1+ or Grade A is the highest quality of English willow, typically used by international stars but increasingly available through limited edition cricket bats for the general public. Knots, blemishes and markings should be minimal, while the grains will be straight, even and of a healthy number for a bat. To put it simply, this is a Test match standard bat.

You then descend in quality to Grade 1 (which is still of the highest quality), Grade 2 (B), Grade 3 (C) and Grade 4. With every step down there will be more discolouration and markings, and the grains will be irregular, wobbly and plentiful. G4 cricket bats are likely to be bleached, non-oil and fixed with an anti-scuff sheet as standard.

As far as suitability is concerned, a rough indicator would be:

G1+: Test match standard
G1: Professional standard
G2: Top club standard
G3: Lower-league standard
G4: Beginner standard

But regardless of your playing level, if you want to reach maximum performance levels then you should purchase the highest quality of cricket bat that you can afford.

Other materials: The handle of a cricket bat, which is usually covered by a plastic grip, is made from cane and connected to the blade via a splice.

KASHMIR WILLOW

English willow-style cricket bats can also be nurtured abroad, but due to inferior moisture levels and soil conditions for producing willow clefts, they are not as highly sought after as genuine English willow.

Kashmir willow is grown in the Kashmir region of Pakistan and India. It is therefore a very cost-effective material for cricket bat manufacturers in those nations. The bats are often drier, harder and browner than English willow equivalents, which therefore impacts on durability. Kashmir willow bats are not as resilient as English willow bats and do not have as good a sweet spot. Thus Kashmir willow tends to be used in the production of low-cost junior bats and low-end adult cricket bats.

SIZE & SHAPE

Now this boils down to personal preference. In recent years batting manufacturers have responded to the requirements of the modern game by producing a range of cricket bats that have a thick edge and large bow, which produce maximum power without compromising on a light pick-up.

If you are a strong, front-foot driver of a ball then you could consider getting a cricket bat with a low sweet spot (the chunky hitting zone in the middle of the bat). English wickets generally keep low and thus UK-based cricketers often opt for a bat with a low sweet spot. Australia, for example, is renowned for hard, bouncy surfaces so a cricket bat with a high sweet spot tends to be a popular choice there.

It's always worth picking up a bat (with gloves) and imitating your usual pick-up routine before committing to purchase. Is it light or weighty? Does it feel bottom-heavy with a low sweet spot? If the bat is extremely difficult to hold with one hand stretched out in front of you then it is probably too heavy.

If you're an experienced cricketer then you will know whether a light or heavy cricket bat is right for you. Even if you opt for a heavy bat, you are still likely to desire a comparatively light pick-up for that particular weight. If you are new to the game then we recommend using a bat with a lighter pick-up, so that you can play back-foot shots and front-foot shot with equal ease. For example, the cut or pull shot (back-foot, square of the wicket) is difficult to play with a heavy bat.

POWER: You can often judge the power of a cricket bat by the size of its spine and how large the edges are. Some bats will also have an elongated hitting zone to give you more room for error and all-round power, whilst others may have a highly concentrated hitting zone that will provide optimum power when the ball finds the middle of the cricket bat.

Our best advice is: Don't just take into your account your physical strength, but also your technical strengths as a cricketer.

TOE GUARD

The toe is the weakest part of the bat so it's best to protect it as much as possible by applying a toe guard. If the bat is struck with a "Yorker" - a delivery that attacks the very bottom of the batsman's bat - then it is likely to cause damage, but a toe guard could help to minimise the risk of the wood splitting. Toe guards also help to reduce the shock of a batsman tapping his bat on the ground and decreases the amount of moisture that will seep through the toe of the cricket bat in damp conditions.

THE HANDLE

Most senior batsmen will opt for a short handle to allow for greater control of your blade, but if you are above 6 foot 2 inches then a long handle bat is a good option - although, again, it comes down to personal choice. Sizes of junior cricket bats usually range from size 1 (smallest; although occasionally you'll find a size 0) to size 6 (largest), with "Harrow" being the intermediary size between size 6 and adult short-hand.

TLC

Cricket bats are fragile - just because you've spent spent £300-plus on a cricket bat does not mean that it will last forever, nor does it mean that you can mistreat it and still expect your bat to perform at its maximum capability. There are many precautionary measures and maintenance processes you should carry out on your bat, not just prior to first usage but also regularly thereafter. The main measures include knocking-in after purchase, oiling, storing in a cool, dry place and other protection techniques.

For more information, we strongly recommend that you view out Bat Care Guide.

DAMAGES

It is important that when purchasing a cricket bat you understand the following:

  • There is no guarantee how long it will last even if it is a top-range bat
  • A cricket bat needs constant TLC
  • The likeliness of cracks are dependent on a number of factors, including luck

Manufacturing flaws are very rare and most damages occur due to poor quality cricket balls, the ball hitting a weak area of the bat, tapping the bat on hard ground or just sheer bad luck. Your cricket bat requires regular upkeep to minimise the chances of severe damage. You will need to patiently knock the bat in and you may even wish to add an anti-scuff covering.

Sometimes the consumer is protected against normal wear and tear in the first twelve months, when it is unlikely that the customer will be charged. However, major damage inflicted by a player who has misused or mistreated the bat, and where no material flaw or structural damage is present in the bat or timber, a repair fee is likely to be incurred.

Do not fret if your new cricket bat starts to sustain cracks. Don't forget they are made out of wood and a hard cricket ball has every chance of scarring and damaging your bat at some stage - even during your first training session.

Also, don't panic if your new cricket bat arrives with knots and blemishes - this is the nature of the material. If you've purchased a mid-to-low standard bat then knots, marks and wobbly grains are likely.

You may wish to view our Cricket Bat Return Guidelines or Delivery & Returns policy.

WE HOPE WE'VE HELPED

If you still have more questions about cricket bats that we haven't covered then please feel free to send us an email: info@cricketdirect.com

We really hope that these cricket bat guidelines have made you more aware of what to look for in a potential cricket bat purchase and that you can proceed with the required knowledge to make an educated decision.

Now you understand the risks, required maintenance, materials and the differing qualities, services and features available for cricket bats, we strongly advise that you take advantage of our unrivalled collection of high quality cricket gear at affordable prices.

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