How to get the best out of your new bat:
Almost all new cricket bats require knocking in before use.
Knocking in is the process of hardening and conditioning the blade's surface. There are two reasons for knocking in; firstly, it protects the bat from cracking as well as increasing its usable life and secondly, it improves the middle of the bat so the middle is bigger and better. The nature of the game of cricket is a hard ball is propelled at high speed toward the batsman who swings the bat in the attempt of hitting the ball. This contact will cause an insufficiently prepared bat to crack very quickly and therefore have a short life span.
Cricket bats are pressed in our bat-making workshop using a mechanical press. The mechanical press applies up to two tons per square inch of pressure to the face of the bat through a roller. Willow, in its natural state, is a very soft timber and has to be pressed to form a hard, resilient layer on the surface. Once this has been done, the bat can be shaped.
The finished bat still needs a final hardening as the mechanical presses are unable to completely protect the bat, or get the perfect performance required from the blade. This requires knocking in by hand with a mallet. Whilst it is possible to prepare a bat solely by pressing, this compresses the wood too deep into the blade which dramatically reduces the performance of the bat. A bat pressed heavily will have a small middle and the ball will not travel as far it would from a bat pressed lightly and knocked in by hand.
Heavily pressed bats do not break so some firms over press bats to keep their warranty work down. This ruins the middle of the bat and the ball will not 'ping' off the middle as it should.
The knocking in process:
There are different ways of preparing your bat for the knocking in process, but we recommend the following process as repeated trials in bat factories around the world have shown that this works far better than all other methods.
Raw linseed oil should be used to moisten the surface of the bat and enable the fibres to become supple. This helps them knit together, thus forming an elastic surface. This is more likely to stretch on impact, rather than crack. Raw linseed is used, as it stays moist for longer than boiled linseed. About a teaspoonful should be applied to the surface of the bat.
We recommend that oil should be applied once before the process of compressing the face begins. Each coat of oil should be about one teaspoon full or about the size of a 10 pence piece. Spread the oil over the face of the bat using your fingers. Spread any leftover linseed oil over the edges of the bat. Let the coat of oil soak in overnight before starting the knocking in with the mallet.
Knock in Face:
After the oil has been applied, the knocking in process can begin. This should be done using a Hardwood bat mallet. This provides much better performance than a ball mallet and also speeds up the process.
Start by hitting the middle of the bat just hard enough to create a dent. [This is surprisingly hard]. Hold the bat up to the light to see if you are making a dent. Gradually compress the face of the bat around these dents so that the face of the bat is level and you cannot see the initial dents any more.
Knock in Toe:
The bottom of the bat toe (the part that is in contact with the ground) should never be hit with the mallet.
Knock in the edges:
The edges require special attention. They need to be rounded off so a hard new ball cant damage them too much. The edges should be struck at 45 degrees tot he face so that the mallet can compress the willow. Similar to the face of the bat make one dent on the edge then gradually even out the edge so that the whole of the surface has a smooth, rounded appearance.
The back of the bat should never be touched with the mallet (or the ball).
If the bat is hit on the edge at 90 degrees to the face, it will reduces the width of the bat and is making contact with an area not mechanically pressed. This increases the likelihood of cracking and you should not be hitting the ball flush on the edge in any case.
With a hardwood bat mallet the knocking in process should take between 10 to 15 sessions of about 10 minutes each. Once you have completed this process take the bat and play a few shots WITH A GOOD QUALITY CRICKET BALL If the bat is showing deep seam marks then it needs more compressing. However you will always get some seam marks on the face of the bat but they should be very deep.
Important to Remember:
Try to avoid wet conditions.
Try to avoid use against cheap sub standard balls.
Try not to drive Yorkers.
Don't over oil the bat.
Try to avoid excessive mis-timed shots.
Please Note: Damage can never be totally eliminated due to the hard nature of the ball and the speed of contact with the bat. A good bat correctly knocked in ideally would last about 1000 runs including net use.