What to look for in a bat?
Picking a cricket bat is a very personal choice – a lot will come down to how it feels, the look, the weight of it and the grip, as well as how you as a player play the game.
When purchasing a cricket bat, it is important that you consider the wide range of bats available and that you take some time over your decision.
Key things to decide before purchasing include:
Budget: Cricket bats range in prices depending on your needs – we strongly recommend that you purchase the best bat you can afford in your budget.
Previous experience: Have you previously played cricket? If so you will understand the game and what you are looking for in a bat. You might also have brand or manufacturer loyalty based on your previous experience and preferences. If that is the case, keep an eye out for new bats being released.
Forward planning: If you’re buying for a junior player, consider the type of bat they may need in the next year. It will be important to consider the growth of the player in question as to the bat they will need to play well.
Legal specifications: There are legal specifications surrounding the manufacture of cricket bats, and all bats stocked by reputable manufacturers need to conform to these rules. These cover the width, length, and covering the blade of the bat. These will be covered in more detail further down on this guide.
As a rule, the full length of a cricket bat should reach to just below the waist on the cricketer in question, whether junior or senior. This is a fundamental part of selecting the right bat and making the wrong decision can adversely affect both training and the techniques used during the game. The user in question should also be able to comfortably hold the bat at arm’s length horizontally in front of them without struggling.
Junior bats are designed specifically for younger players and it is essential the right bat is chosen for the right age, as this will impact on the techniques the young cricketer uses. These bats are typically scaled down in size and lighter than Senior bats.
Junior bats range from size 0 to Harrow (this term indicates a bat that is just below the size of the Short Handle full sized adult bat – these are designed for teenagers who are not quite ready for a full-sized bat with either a short handle or long handle/blade). Some brand also make Small Men’s or Academy size bats which bridge the gap between Harrow and full size bats.
These different bat sizes have an approx. age and height guide, but it goes without saying that all batsmen should be measured correctly to purchase the right bat on an individual basis.
Senior cricket bats follow from Harrow bats and are full sized with either a short or long handle (known as Full SH and Full LH). The bat width is the same whether a short handled or long handled bat is chosen.
These cricket bats are suitable typically for those aged 15+ and a height rate for, 5’9” for short handled bats and 6’2”+ for long handled bats. As with Junior bats, the individual batsman will need to be measured before selecting the appropriate bat, as no one size fits all.
The following table is an approximate guide as to age/height and the right bat to buy but, as above, this needs to be taken as a guide and each batsman should be measured before a bat is purchased.
Approx size guide by player height:
|Full Size LH
||6ft 1in +
|Full Size SH
||176 – 186cm
||5ft 8in - 6ft 1in
||168 - 175cm
||5ft 6in - 5ft 9in
||163 - 168cm
||5ft 4in - 5ft 6in
||157 - 163cm
||5ft 2in - 5ft 4in
||150 - 157cm
||4ft 11in - 5ft 2in
||144 - 150cm
||4ft 9in - 4ft 11in
||137 - 144cm
||4ft 6in - 4ft 9in
||129 - 137cm
||4ft 3in - 4ft 6in
||120 - 129cm
||3ft 11in - 4ft 3in
||115 - 120cm
||3ft 9in - 3ft 11in
Training bats follow the length and sizing of Junior/Senior bats, but are a lot narrower; this makes the players work harder to hit the ball during training. Also ideal for throw down batting drills or wicket keeping practice.
There are generally two types of willow used in the manufacture of cricket bats; English willow and Kashmir willow. A very small percentage of bats on the market are made from alternative willow sourced in Eastern Europe.
English willow is the preferred timber of choice as it is soft and fibrous, giving a higher performance when striking the ball. Kashmir (Indian) willow is harder, so more robust, but as such will not have the same effect on performance. Players agree that an English willow bat has a “sweet spot” when striking the ball, whereas a Kashmir willow bat does not.
In addition to the willow of the blade, the handles of cricket bats are made from cane with rubber and/or cork inserts. Cane is used due to its strong but flexible characteristics.
The handle can be round or oval in shape to suit the player’s preference. The cane is wrapped tightly in twine and is fitted with a rubber grip for control and feel.
In addition to the size of the bat and handle, there are a number of other design options to bear in mind when selecting your cricket bat.
Shape and Bow
It has been said that modern cricketers prefer bats with thicker edges and larger bows to help aid performance, however, a lot of this is down to personal tastes. A bat with a larger bow will generally “pick-up” lighter than one with a smaller bow and the pressing process used to bow the bat should also mean the bat feels more powerful from earlier in its life.
Bats also have “the middle” positioned lower or higher in the blade which will be preferable based on the player’s technique and the type of pitches being used. A higher middle will give the bat better balance and feel and is best suited to fast/hard wickets. A lower middle will mean the bat feels slightly more bottom heavy but will allow for improved swing momentum and therefore power when playing shots. Bats with lower middles are well suited to typical English wickets with low and slow bounce.
Grains on the Bat
The number of grains on the bat can help indicate the quality of the willow and the hardness of the wood; bats with less grains may take longer to knock in than ones with more. That is not to say that bats with lower grains are all poor quality, as this is not the case.
Typically, bats that have between 6-12 grains are of good quality willow.
There are 5 different Grades of cricket bat, ranging from Grade 1+ to Grade 4, in that order. The main difference between the grades is the grain structure, bleaching and discolouration. Whilst willow grade choice will be largely dependent on your budget, all grades of bat will still be suitable for the game.
The highest quality of English Willow, this is typically use for top end bats and sponsored players. This is characterised by straight, even grains, unbleached wood, and no discolouration to the bat face.
Grade 1 – G1
This is the second highest grade of English willow and is characterised by good, straight grain structure. These bats are not bleached and have minimal markings/discolouration on the bat face.
Grade 2 – G2
This is the third grade of English willow; these bats are unbleached but do have some irregular grain patterns, blemishes or discolouration across the bat blade.
Grade 3 – G3
The fourth grade of English willow. These bats will have a definite and irregular grain pattern, actual marks and discolouration to the blade.
Grade 4 – G4
The fifth and final grade of English willow; these bats are usually bleached with a covering on the face of the bat and are not oiled.
Again, it is user preference as to whether they choose a bat with a covered or uncovered face.
Uncovered bats have a natural finish that allow the user to treat the wood with linseed oil, whereas a covered face has a protective coating meaning oiling isn’t necessary.
The performance of the bat will not be hindered whichever option is chosen.
A ‘20/20’ bat has a longer handle and shorter blade than typical bats, to allow for bigger hits. This is most often used for Twenty20 (T20) matches, which are restricted to a maximum of 20 overs per side, so batsmen playing this type of game will want a bat that allows them to have increased leverage for bigger shots.
A toe guard protects the toe of the bat from damage, although is not fool proof. Whilst initially an optional extra, most modern bats come with a toe guard now already attached. However, it is possible to pick bats up without this, if you prefer not to have one in place.
The finish of the bat is another personal choice and similar to choosing a covered or uncovered face. As above, the grain of the wood is classed as the natural finish, but some lower grades have sheets fitted with artificially printed grains to make the bats look like the higher grade bats. This should be made clear at point of sale, so you do not think you are buying a better grade bat by its finish.
There are two parts to this; preparation and maintenance. It is essential to prepare the bat before it is used and then maintain it from then onwards.
If a bat isn’t properly oiled, it may break easily and will not give the same levels of performance as an identical bat that has been oiled. Conversely, over-oiling can also lead to problems such as the willow becoming sponge like or the glue between the blade and the handle spice coming loose.
If your bat has an anti-scuff cover, then you will only need to lightly oil the exposed areas of wood on the back and sides of the bat.
Only raw linseed oil should be used to treat cricket bat willow.
STEP 1: Apply a light coat of oil using a soft rag to the Face, Edges, Toe & Back of the bat
If the bat has an anti-scuff cover, then you do not need to apply to the Face. If the bat has a toe guard you will not need to oil the toe.
STEP 2: Once the oil has been applied, place the cricket bat in a horizontal position and leave to dry for a minimum of 12 hours, preferably 24.
STEP 3: Apply second and third coats, following the same method as above. Leave to dry between coats each time with the bat in a horizontal position, a minimum of 12 hours each time.
This needs to be done after the bat has been oiled and as a term means to compact the bat and knit the fibres together enough to withstand the large amounts of impact that the edges, toe and blade will all take during a cricket game.
It is very important not to rush this process as you could end up damaging the bat.
Some bats come “pre-knocked” – this means the manufacturers have already simulated this process and the bat is already compressed. However, all manufacturers do still recommend that bats are knocked in by their new owners before use for a short while.
Knocking in guidelines
The purpose of knocking in is to simulate the treatment your bat will get during a real game, and therefore the steps you need to take need to give the bat enough “rough” treatment to prepare the timber whilst being gentle enough to not cause damage, especially at the start and if your bat has not been “pre-knocked”.
STEP 1: Firstly, the bat needs to be gently struck with a wooden bat mallet or similar around the face and edges. It is important to go gently at this point.
STEP 2: Repeat several times over the space over a couple of hours, increasing the power gradually per session. It is important to go around the edges as well as the face of the bat, but bear in mind the edges are more susceptible to damage. Do not hit the edges square on with the mallet directly; rather, gently and gradually round the corners off.
STEP 3: After 2-3 hours of knocking in with the wooden bat mallet, it is worth then moving onto hitting the bat with a cricket ball. A specialist “ball-on-a-stick” style cricket bat mallet is recommended for this stage. This will give the bat a real life experience of being in a simulated match and add more knocking in time, but if seam marks or small dents appear easily, you must return to step 1.
STEP 4: Eventually, you want to get to the stage of using the bat for close catching sessions and for normal net practice, with no obvious damage being shown. Once you have completed both of these a few times, then the bat should be ready for competitive use.
A number of good cricket retailers will offer a professional knocking in service for a fee. This will give you peace of mind that the job has been done properly as well as saving you a lot of time and effort.
It is important to keep on top of your bat and its physical condition, as damage can be prevented with regular maintenance.
You should continue to oil your bat after the initial preparation stage, especially if you see any dryness or damage. As with the initial stage, a light coat is best with ample drying time in a horizontal position.
If you do see any damage to the face or edges, then we would recommend sanding this out before oiling.
For ongoing maintenance, it is also worth sanding the edges and blade once or twice during a season irrespective of obvious damage, then reapplying oil. This will keep these areas of the bat in good, playable condition.
It is also important to avoid getting the toe wet; and if this does happen, drying it off thoroughly ASAP!
You may wish to add a toe guard, if your bat did not come with one, to give extra protection to this vulnerable area of the bat
A protective cover will run up the face of the bat and finish just below the manufacturer labels. This will give added protection and provide an anti-scuff layer. Fibreglass tape can be fitted to the edges of the bat for additional protection.
We’d always recommend transporting your bat in a case / cover, as this will protect it from knocks and damage when not in use.
The Laws of Cricket are a code that set the rules of cricket worldwide. Amongst other things, these set the legal specifications for the width and length of a cricket bat, the material and the thickness of any covering used.
Width: Max. 4.25” / 10.8cm – bats can be narrower than these measurements.
Length: Max. 38” / 96.52cm – bats can be shorter than these measurements.
Depth: Max. 2.64” / 6.7cm at the middle, and max. 1.56” / 4cm at the edge.
Material: The blade must be made from wood, with willow being the optimum.
Covering: Any covering used on the blade must not exceed a thickness of 0.11cm. This covering should not be likely to cause any damage to the cricket ball.