Bat Care and Selection Guide

Buying a cricket bat online

It's amazing how often we hear people say that they would never buy a cricket bat online. The fact is, many folks have no choice, they may not live close enough to a sports shop to pick one personally or are looking for a present for a loved one. Unfortunately, buying a bat online can be a bit of a lottery. However at Willostix we are all cricketers, we play league cricket every week and we do know a thing or two about cricket bats. So, when you want to buy a Willostix bat and if you are unsure of your exact requirements or have any questions, please call us before you proceed (01892 546186) The system here on our website is pretty thorough when it comes to bat weight, but weight can only tell you so much. If you have particular requirements, perhaps a higher middle, extra grip, or a different length handle, just ring us up and we can have a chat. We will always try and get a bat that is spot on for the customer, and in truth we normally do.

What to look for when buying an English willow bat

We have produced a set of guidelines below to help you combat the myths associated with buying an English willow cricket bat, and to pass on some trade tips to make the process easier. The most important thing is how the bat feels when you pick it up, make sure you are wearing a pair of batting gloves when doing this as this gives you a more realistic idea of weight and pick up. If it feels a little heavy then imagine how it will feel on a hot sunny day when you have been batting for a while. If you are not very good this will not be a problem.

Is the bat the right size?

When buying for a junior the best way to judge whether a bat is the correct size is to stand the bat vertical alongside the leg, the top of the bat should come up level with the bottom of the belt line. It is crictical for batsmen of all ages that their bat is the correct weight for them, but particularly so for juniors. Most junior cricketers buy a bat that is too heavy for them, this will prevent them from playing to the best of their ability and will have a negative impact on how they develop as a cricketer. Always go for a lighter bat for a junior. For senior players there is a multitude of options in sizes, handle lengths and weights. The best way forward is to try everything and see what suits you best. Most senior bats come equipped with a short handle, however if you are of a shorter stature you may well need a super short handle, if on the other hand you are very tall, perhaps a long handle or a long blade bat would be preferable.

Whenever buying a bat insist that you can test the blade using a mallet. Some shops will object to this, if they do leave immediately. There is no need to smash the bat with a mallet this will just make a lot of noise and upset everyone. Instead gently tap the face of the bat letting the mallet drop onto the surface. Generally speaking, on a good bat the bat the mallet will bounce, on a bad bat it will not. You will feel the spring all the way through and the handle will come alive in your hand, a bit like Yoda's lightsaber (good hand speed that lad).

Now for the willow. A good bat does not need to have 15 grains exactly the same distance apart, some top bats only have a few grains, perhaps as few as 5 or 6. The reason for this is that the wood has grown quite quickly, each grain representing a year in the tree's life. The grains are actually the rings you see on the trunk when the tree has been cut down. Nowadays cricket bat willow is grown seriously as a commercial crop in a managed environment, and encouraged to grow quicker than in previous times. The grains, however many, should be straight and the distance between them should not vary greatly. Some of the best wood will contain marks, these are called butterfly stains and are perfectly acceptable. Also, some wood contains darker specks, in many cases this is due to the tree having grown in gravelly soil, and as it has grown the tree has taken tiny specks of gravel up with it. This wood is often overlooked for cosmetic reasons, but it can produce very strong and long lasting cricket bats. Dead knots in the wood and wobbly grain should be avoided.

Always take a close look at where the handle joins the blade of the bat, the splice. The joint should be perfect. Many manufacturers design stickers to cover up the splice and disguise poor workmanship, there should be no filler or rough gaps, if the joint is not a perfect fit it will not be as strong. Equally if the saw used to cut the splice is not very sharp, the edges of the joint will not be absolutely straight. You should also ensure the handle has three rubber inlays running down its length. These provide flexibility in the handle and can be checked by looking at the very top of the bat.

Example of a good tight grained english willow cricket bat
Example of good straight grained willow.
Example of poor uneven grains on an english willow cricket bat
Example of uneven/wobbly grained willow.
Example of a knotted english willow cricket bat
Example of knotted willow.

If you wish to learn more about cricket bat willow, please visit the website of our willow growers J.S. Wright and Sons Ltd.

Bat Care and Maintenance

Knocking in your bat

The face of a new English willow bat needs to be prepared before it is ready to use with a cricket ball. This is called knocking in. Wood is a natural product and the knocking in process compresses the fibres in the face, toe and edges of a cricket bat so that they do not fracture or distort when used with a hard ball.

Use a wooden mallet for this process. Some people use an old ball in a sock. Unfortunately this often results in the sock stretching and the ball hitting the person on the head, or the sock tearing and the ball going through the television screen or into someone's eye. Best use a mallet.

Hit the bat gently and repeatedly with the mallet all along with the face of the bat (below the stickers) and the corresponding area on the edges where the face joins the side of the bat. Also pay close attention to the toe of the bat, this is where the bat is particularly susceptible to damage. The process takes a long time, an hour or two is not enough. The more time spent knocking in the bat, the better it will perform. Five hours minimum. Once the bat is knocked in, you can either attach a plastic anti scuff (recommended) or apply two light coats of linseed oil with a soft cloth to the face and toe of the bat. Don't over oil the bat, you will ruin it. All junior bats come with a plastic anti scuff sheet as standard.

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