Bats break for many reasons. One of the most common reasons is that the willow is very dry. Also letting the bat get wet or playing poorly timed shots can break a bat. They can also become cracked in unfortunate circumstances, such as jamming the bat down on a yorker. Dry willow can be dealt with through oiling. You need to be careful with how much oil you put on your bat as over oiling can damage and soften the willow. Excessive oil may cause the fibres in the face of the bat to separate and therefore delaminate, making the bat vulnerable to splitting.
Linseed oil softens the bat fibres and then knits them together. This makes them supple and able to withstand being hit by the force of the cricket ball at high speed. Use raw linseed oil or specialized cricket bat oil to treat your bat prior to use is recommended. This will help maintain moisture levels within the bat and reduce the chance of cracking or splitting while playing. Raw linseed oil tends to penetrate better than boiled linseed oil. Using either a soft cloth lightly apply a thin coat (one teaspoon) of oil to the face and edges. Avoid putting excessive oil onto the toe and never oil the splice.
Knocking in is a process designed to harden the bat thoroughly before use. You should strike the new cricket bat with a hardwood bat mallet or a used ball in a sock. This will harden your bat. Almost all new cricket bats require knocking in before use. Knocking in is the process of hardening and conditioning of the blades’ surface. Knocking in protects the face of the bat from cracking, so increasing the bats usable life. It also improves the middle of the bat so it performs better. The nature of the game of cricket is that a hard ball is propelled at high speed toward the batsman who swings the bat hitting the ball. This contact will cause a bat that is not knocked in to crack. These cracks will shorten the life of the bat. Knocking in provides a hard protective layer on the face of the bat and helps reduce the cracking.
You need to hit the bat hard enough to create a small dent in the middle. Almost all new cricket bats require knocking in before use except for those that have been over pressed (we will deal with this issue later). Check to see if you managed to make a dent. Then gently knock the face of the bat around this dent to make it level. When done, you should no longer see the dent. You need to do this across the full face of the bat. Round off the edges as well as the face of the bat. Hit with a 45 degree angle to the face. This allows the mallet to compress the willow on the edges and this is often the softest part of a new bat. Start with one dent on the edge, then gently knock around it to remove it and smooth the edge out. In each case, repeatedly strike the face and edges of the bat whilst gradually increasing the force of the strike over time. Do not use the mallet on either the face or the bottom of the bat toe with the mallet. Hit the ball with the bat as much as you can - net with soft, used cricket balls rather than new ones. This will continue to harden it and prepare it for match use.
Yes - Absolutely. Pressing a bat gets it ready for you to knock it in but further work is required to ensure that it is 'match ready'. Some companies over press a bat to a point when it will not take a small dent or leave any seam marks or surface indentations. At Lionheart we understand that this is detrimental to its long term performance - even if it seemingly makes a bat instantly ready to play with in a match. Overpressing can make a piece of willow dead and lifeless. We prefer to press a bat to a point in which it is hard enough to work with but not so hard that it cannot then be knocked in properly. By not overpressing the willow it does require the user to do some of the extra work in the nets with softer older cricket balls or with a mallet. The massive benefit of this is that the willow is gradually hardened naturally in an environment in which it was designed to be used - and not overly hardened it on an artificial pressing machine. So you should find that a bat ages well and gets better and better over time - and a good piece of willow can almost be moulded into the stroke play of the user making them feel as though the bat is an extension of themselves. This is why a treasured cricket bat often feels hard to replace ! Think of pressing as the undercoat and knocking in as the top coat in painting terms.
When a bat gets exposed to excess moisture the compressed willow fibres begin to expand. The willow acts like a sponge as willow is an incredibly porous wood. As bats expand the protective harder surface is lost. Bats without the hard face will be much more likely to crack or split. Moisture damage occurs often when playing on wet surfaces, or having throw downs with a wet ball. Be particularly wary of artificial pitches or nets, as even if the surface is dry the subsurface may be wet. When the bat is tapped on the pitch moisture will be drawn up and affect the toe of the bat.
Not really, but almost all cricketers will end up having to play matches when their is moisture in the wicket, especially early season. This can cause major damage to bats, but there are a few tactics you can use to protect your bat. The most common issue related to playing in damp conditions is the uptake of moisture through the lower portion of the bat. This will happen when the raw willow comes into contact with the damp ground through your stance, tapping at the crease, turning for runs and sliding your bat into the crease. Too much moisture is not good for willow as it can affect the structural integrity of the timber as well as the weight and balance of the bat. It is in your best interests to limit the amount of moisture that comes into contact with your match bat so that it stays in the best possible condition.
Just about every cricketer has had a favourite bat break, and gone through the pain of having to find a replacement. Bats break because they are inherently fragile, and made from natural materials. Cricket Bat willow is a natural product that decays over time and with use, meaning bats do not last forever, and as they get older they are far more likely to break.
Cricket bats take time to perform at their best. As a bat matures its middle will improve, and batsmen will get greater value for shots. Once the middle has been compressed so much that the willow has lost its elasticity the bat will need to be replaced. It is also important to give your bat a tidy up and refurbishment at the end of each season. This is a very simple process involving removing any protective facings, sanding the wood down and lightly oiling it.