Monday, November 06, 2006

Knocking in Bats

If you want your new MRF bat to perform to its full potential please follow the instructions below, if not you must expect a certain amount of damage which is NOT covered by any guarantee or warranty. During the lifetime of a bat some damage will occur and therefore it is impossible to prevent all damage. Each strike of a cricket ball will cause some, often unoticeable damage to the bat. ALL OUR NEW MRF BATS COME WITH A TOE GUARD READY FITTED TO HELP AVOID DAMAGE TO THE EXPOSED TOE OF YOUR BAT.OILING YOUR BATThe purpose of oiling your bat is to help to soften and bind the surface fibres of the willow during the knocking in process and also prevent the wood from drying out and becoming brittle. By oiling the toe you help to prevent water soaking in which could lead to the toe cracking.MRF cricket bats require oiling with raw linseed oil or special cricket bat oil. A minimum of two coats (preferably three) should be applied to the bat leaving 24 hours between coats for the oil to dry and soak in. During the drying time the bat should be laid horizontally, out of direct sunlight. A coat of oil is about one teaspoon full, but be especially generous with the oil around the toe area of your bat. However avoid oiling the splice area and the stickers as the oil could loosen the glue. Also NEVER stand the bat in oil or apply too much oil as this will deaden the wood resulting in very poor performance.KNOCKING INIs the process by which the willow fibres on the face and edges are compressed together to form a barrier that protects the bat against the impact of the ball. By properly knocking in your bat you will significantly improve the performance and increase the life of your bat.STAGE ONE: (Stage One should take in the region of six hours, although it may vary, as every bat is different.)Using either a Bat Mallet or an old cricket ball the face and edges of the bat should be repeatedly struck gradually increasing the force. This conditioning must be performed with patience. Do not however strike the edges directly at right angles to the blade, this would more than likely cause damage.STAGE TWO:(Stage Two should take at least another hour.)Now test out the bat by hitting short catches with an old cricket ball. However, if the seam marks the blade it is necessary to return to "stage one". Once these steps have been taken, the bat should be ready for use in matches. It is advisable to initially avoid use against the "new ball".WARNING UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES SHOULD A BAT BE USED IN MATCH CONDITIONS LESS THAN TWO WEEKS FOLLOWING THE DATE OF PURCHASE.NETS - It is advisable not to use a new bat during indoor net sessions or on concrete practice pitches, the ground is often very hard and will increase the risk of damage to the toe of your bat, especialy if you try to 'dig out yorkers' or catch the bat on the floor as you attempt a shot. Damage caused under these conditions is not covered by any bat warranty.END OF SEASON - At the start and end of each season lightly sand the blade and apply another light coat of oil. Never put your bat away wet as this encourages rotting. Try to store the bat in cool, moist conditions to prevent excessive drying of the willow. Do not keep your bat in your car boot for any length of time as this will dry it out and weaken the willow.LIFESPAN OF A CRICKET BAT - A figure of 1000 to 1500 runs is often quoted but the life of a cricket bat is goverened by many factors, including preparation, usage both the amount and style of play and how you care for your bat. The length of time before the player needs to replace his bat will depend upon:a) The amount of use b) The weight of the bat (heavier blades tend to be more durable than lighter ones) c) The care with which the bat is treated Test match players get through 4 to 6 bats a year, an opening batsman facing a new ball every week against fast bowling at semi-professional level could expect to use a new bat each year, someone lower down the order who hits the ball hard would be in a similar situation.IN CASE OF DAMAGE - Immediate action should be taken. This normally necessitates withdrawal from play whilst repairs are carried out. It is vital the repairs are carried out by professional bat makers. The manufacturers are unable to guarantee repair work carried out by non-approved repairers.
The basic idea is to avoid splinters and bits breaking off the edges by gently tapping the bat with a mallet. Really need advice on knocking? Then read on. Otherwise skip the following excellent advise. Cameron Fraser: When you buy a bat, it is only lightly pressed at the factory and the fibres are still really soft - if you press your fingernail into the surface you'll see what I mean. 'Knocking in' is the process of compressing and binding these lose fibres together to allow the bat to withstand the constant impact from the ball. You're preparing the bat to be HIT.Your aim is to 'bash' the surface of the blade - not the back or the bottom of the bat (that can be disastrous!) You can use an OLD, GOOD QUALITY ball in your hand or put it in a sock or try different types of 'knocking in' mallets - my preference is for the solid wood version. Any good shop or mail order company does them for around a fiver - buy one, you'll need to make use of it many times. Start 'knocking in' by gently working on the edges and gradually knocking them into a rounded, compressed shape once you get started you'll soon see the change in texture. Then keep working on the edges and the area around the toe of the bat - not the bottom of the bat - and think of trying to use glancing strokes that resemble you edging a ball to gully, then 3rd slip, 2nd slip, etc. while all the time gradually increasing the strength of the impact.Don't forget to give the middle a good going over but the priority should be the outside inch or so of the bat round both edges and the toe. How long do you have to go through this mind numbingly boring routine? Slazenger recommend 6 hours - now that is a long, long time. If you try to do it in good 5 minute blocks it becomes more manageable. Essentially you don't want to think about using the bat until it's had at least 2 hours(24 x 5 minute sessions) but ideally if you can manage double that then all the better. If you have the time and space and tolerant neighbours then the process can be done in a week or so - most of us need a bit longer! But there's no point going to the other extreme - buying a bat one season and not using it until the next. Anyway, such self-denial would be way beyond the likes of me or most cricketers I know! So use the bat but be sensible. After the initial 2-4 hours 'knocking in,' try using it for hitting short catches and then in the nets against OLD, GOOD QUALITY balls and only against the spinners/ slow mediums first. A new or cheap ball can do a lot of damage to an under-prepared bat and digging out a fast yorker in the nets can spell doom and destruction for even the best prepared bat! So try and middle the ball and play the bat in - resist the wild slogging for once! Then do some more 'knocking in' and then some more and then some more and then some more... Remember, SOME bats need a LITTLE linseed oil - but no more than a couple of teaspoonfuls per season! However, ALL BATS NEED KNOCKING IN. Gunn & Moore now provide this service for around 10 pounds in their GM NOW range. For most people that's 10 lbs well spent. But don't forget you'll still need to keep 'knocking in' throughout the life of your bat, knocking out indentations, evening out dead spots in the bat, strengthening area around glued repairs etc. A cricket dealer I know recommends that the day you stop 'knocking in' is the day you throw the bat in the bin.
Preparing Your Cricket Bat - Knocking In
By James Laver - World’s foremost cricket bat crafstman
Almost all new cricket bats require knocking in before use. Knocking in, is the process of hardening and conditioning of the blades' surface. There are two reasons for knocking in;
Protecting the bat from cracking and increase its usable life
Improving the middle of the bat so the middle is bigger and 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 prepared correctly to crack up very quickly, and have a short life.
Cricket bats are pressed in the bat-making workshop using a mechanical press. The mechanical press applies up to 2tons/square inch of pressure to the face of the bat through a roller. Willow is a very soft timber in its natural state. It 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. While 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 as with a bat pressed lightly and knocked in by hand.
The Knocking In Process
At the stage when the bat is purchased there are different ways of preparing your bat for the knocking in process. We recommend the following process - repeated trials in bat factories have shown us 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 and knit together, forming an elastic surface. This is more likely to stretch on impact, rather than crack. Raw linseed oil is used, as it stays moist for longer than boiled linseed. About a teaspoonful should be applied to the surface of the bat.
I recommend that oil should be applied 3 times before the process of compressing the face begins. Each coat of oil should be about a teaspoon full. Spread the oil over the face of the bat using a small rag or your fingers (always discard the rag after each application as it can spontaneously combust). Spread leftover linseed oil over the edges and toe of the bat. Let each coat of oil soak in overnight and repeat the process.
When the oil has been applied the knocking in process can begin. This should be done using a Hardwood bat mallet.
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 this dent so that the face of the bat is level and you cannot see the initial dent any more. The bottom of the bat toe (the part that is in contact with the ground) should never be hit with the mallet.

The edges require special attention; they need to be rounded off so that the hard new ball cannot damage them too much. The edges should be struck at 45 degrees to the face so that the mallet can compress the willow. Similar to the face, make one dent on the edge, and then gradually even out the edge so that the whole 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 at 90 degrees to the face on the edge it reduces the width of the bat and is covering an area not mechanically pressed. The likelihood of cracking increases 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 from between 10 to 15 sessions of about 10 minutes each. Once you have completed this process, as a guide to see if the bat is ready for play take it into the nets and play a few shots with an old ball. If the bat is showing very deep seam marks to the point of almost cracking the face of the bat then it needs more compressing. One will always get seam marks on the face of the bat; they should not be too deep.
The price of a bat does not have any effect on whether a bat cracks or not. The best bats are usually more expensive, but liable to crack more than cheaper bats because the willow is often softer. When a bat has expired buy another one!
Back in the late 1800's the bats were subjected to huge amounts of pressure at the pressing stage to make the willow very hard. If the blade started to show signs of cracking during this process it was rejected. Linseed oil was very often used to saturate the blade in order to soften the wood, make it more comfortable to use (over pressed bats jar on impact), and get a bit of performance out of it. WG Grace would have a few of the junior members of his club using his linseed soaked bats for a season or so before he would deem them ready for use. Bats soaked in oil generally break up and don’t perform!
When a bat is pressed very hard it is very difficult to hit the ball off the square. The thin protective layer of hard (pressed) willow is becomes a thick layer that is too deep into the willow. Hard-pressed willow does not have the desired elastic qualities of the soft pressed willow, meaning the ball does not 'ping' off the bat.
Laver & Wood strongly recommend to have your bat knocked in professionally when you purchase it. This helps to get a better performance and generally extends the life of the bat. It also relieves you and your family members of a time consuming, noisy and monotonous process. Ask at your local cricket dealer if they can have your bat knocked in by a batmaker - it should not cost too much.
Caveat: 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.
Laver & Wood sell hardwood knocking in mallets and offer a knocking in service. All Laver & Wood bats come with a hardwood mallet.
For more advice on bat preparation from experienced cricketers and coaches from all around the world, visit our Coaching Forum where you can get excellent advice on bat preparation, bat repairs and the best bats to buy.
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