It’s time for a change of pace today. Rather than Maxie and I charging in off the long run with another polemic about the Lord’s debacle, I’ve decided to gently introduce a new topic – cricket bats.
When Maxie and I started TFT a few years ago we wanted the blog to cover amateur cricket too, and become a forum for club and village cricketers like ourselves. We’ve done a bit of this now and again, but not nearly enough. The oscillating fortunes of the England team have generally dominated proceedings.
That’s why I’d like to get a discussion going about bats. What type do you have? Do you treat yours like a loved one, which you take to bed with you and stoke tenderly at night, or is it just a piece of meat you’re happy to abuse and then throw away when it breaks?
How much has a particular bat meant to you? Do you have an old favourite that you’ve nurtured since school, which is cracked, decrepit and only hangs together thanks to heaps fiberglass tape?
I’m ashamed to say I do. It’s an old Duncan Fearnley Magnum that I’ve had for 25 years (pictured above). It’s too knackered to use in a match but I can’t bear the thought of throwing it out. I scored my first two centuries with it as a kid. I hope to use it in the garden when my little boy’s old enough.
I also wanted to discuss how modern bats have impacted the game. I’d love to know what you think about the new breed of bats, which tend to be thicker and softly pressed? We know they’ve impacted the professional game, but have you seen a change at amateur level too?
I’ll briefly tell you why I mention this. I’m a reasonably good opening batsman who’s just realised he’s become something of an anachronism. Despite being a handy player at school, representing Worcestershire at junior level, and playing for my university’s (indoor) seconds, I currently feel completely inadequate at a cricketer. I’ll tell you why.
Over the last twenty years or so I’ve only played cricket on an intermittent basis at a social and village level; therefore I’ve been somewhat out of loop when it comes to the modern amateur game. This year, however, I decided to try out for my kid’s school’s staff and fathers’ team. It’s all T20 cricket – not exactly my style, but I’ve had success in this format before. In fact, the last time I played in an evening T20 league I won player of the season – although this was a long time ago.
I turned up at the first game thinking it would be a breeze. How wrong I was. Modern T20 cricket is no place for an elegant, some would say boring, opening batsman. These days everyone just smacks it from ball one – something I’m not very good at. I usually need a few sighters – preferably ten overs worth.
The last time I played T20 cricket, a total of 120 (a run a ball) was considered to be a good score. My new teammates aim for 180 every time. It’s a whole new ball game.
On my debut I made 17 off 17 balls, and batted quite well – there were a few pleasant on drives plus a few elegant square cuts which flew towards the boundary, only to be intercepted by some young bloke who was unfairly fast and athletic.
As the bloke at the other end was smashing sixes left, right and centre, I made a tactical decision, in the best interests of the team, to rotate the strike at every opportunity and let the behemoth face as many balls as possible.
The bottom line, however, was that I ended up scoring all my runs in singles. When I finally decided the time was right to hit out, I ended up being caught at deep square leg. When I walked back to pavilion I was the butt of all jokes. They’d got a nickname for the newbie: ‘Tinder’. Apparently this is a dating website with lots of singles. The cheeky sods!
However, I’m beginning to think that my bat is the problem, not me. I know this sounds like a lame excuse, but hear me out.
A friend of mine turned up at the last match with a brand new Slazenger. He said it weighted about 2 lbs 10 but it looked absolutely enormous. The edges were huge. I couldn’t believe how such a meaty piece of willow only weighed a couple of ounces more than my eight-year-old Newberry Uzi.
When I put my bat alongside his, mine looked like a toothpick. The edges and middle were literally half the width. Perhaps this why the other guys can hit the ball miles and I can’t. Do you think this theory has any merit or is it just a matter of talent and timing?
I’d love to know whether you guys have been through something similar? Has a new hefty piece of wood solved all your personal cricketing woes? Or should I just accept that I’m an anachronism with no role to play in modern T20 cricket?
If I do decide to invest in a new piece of willow, I’m a little unsure what to buy. Sites like Talent Cricket have so many blades to choose from. The old favourites like Gray Nicolls, Gunn and Moore, Newberry and Hunts County still seem to be going strong, but now there’s a host of new makes I’m unfamiliar with: Adidas, Spartan, Willostix and Ton.
There’s even a brand called Stanford Bats. I hope I don’t have to pay for the latter with a briefcase full of banknotes, or shake Giles Clarke’s sweaty hand on the outfield at Lord’s to seal the deal.
In your experience are these new brands any good? Which brand represents the best value for money? And is there a lot of difference between the expensive and not so expensive bats? I imagine many amateur players won’t be able to tell the difference.
I’m asking for help because a decent cricket bat – one with 7-9 grains and top grade willow – can cost in excess of £350 these days. That’s an awful lot of money to spend on something that’s pressed so softly it might break after a couple of innings. Buying a new bat is now a major investment. I don’t want to buy an expensive plank.
Hi James – in another life I run the CustomBatsForum – the answer to your question of what bat you need can be answered pretty simply.
If you want something totally bespoke and unique go for B3
if you want a custom from a household name ask for a County bat via Jake at Vitas Cricket
If you want a bespoke boutique bat try something like Red Ink or Aldred (highly recommended)
If you want an off the shelf bat at a reasonable price – try Blank Bats (which is what I use)
p.s. you can great value if you fancy a butterfly bat too.
failing that a GN bat from the sports direct sale can be brilliant
Thanks Philip. I’ve thought seriously about buying a bat on line. The Talent Cricket website has quite a good choice of bats. In the old days I used to drive up to Worcester and visit the DF factory. I assumed I’d bump into Ian Botham or Graeme Hick there, but it never happened :-(
Should’ve gone to the King’s Head for that, not the bat factory…
What a lovely story. I’m looking forward to learning more about amateur cricket and all about bats. :-)
Nice change up, James. I like it.
I know what you mean, and actually feel the same way. I usually bat 4 for my club, but for various availability reasons this season I’ve spent quite a lot of time either opening or going in at 3. Not a problem, and I’ve managed to score well, with an average of just over 55 and a SR (the club stato tells me) of 85 from 9 innings – I’m more than happy with those numbers.
However, I recently started playing a couple of midweek T20 games for a friend, just to help out, and I’ve struggled no end. I feel under so much pressure to hit boundaries that as soon as any sort of half-loose ball comes along, I’m trying to put it out of the park, usually failing. I feel if I just play my normal game I’ll probably do quite well, but like you say the expectation of everyone is to have a SR of well over 100! The modern game, eh… I’ll still help out when I can, but give me 45/50 over cricket any day.
As for bats… not easy as there are SO many to choose from. I’ve just bought myself a new Kookaburra which I’m painstakingly knocking in before I use it. It’ll be next season at this rate. I won’t claim to be an expert, but I do think there’s a difference between the very upper and lower price brackets, just maybe not as much between middle-top. I’ve heard Spartan bats are very nice to use – a couple of guys at my club have one and they love them – but that’s the only thing I have to base that on. I have to admit my preference when looking was still the old guards though – Gray Nicolls, GM, Kookaburra, County…
Good luck, either way!
Cheers for the advice Geoff. I had a Kookaburra at school before I bought my trusty DF. One day Gary Sobers visited my school to talk about cricket (we were very lucky!) he wanted to demonstrate a few shots so he picked up my Kookaburra and demonstrated the finer points of why Carl Hooper would never fulfil his potential! I was absolutely delighted. To this day I think there’s a picture of Sobers wielding my bat in the school pavilion. Unfortunately however, the bat broke in half a couple of weeks later. I was absolutely gutted.
Nice article James. I particularly liked the nonchalant “I scored my first two centuries with it…”
Thick modern bats just feel odd to me, presumably because I’m so used to my old faithful, unmarked, 30 years old and held-together-with araldite-and-tape job. My PE teacher gave it to me when the school got some better kit. I scored my first 20 with it…and my legendary high score of 51, almost entirely to 3rd man down a huge slope that was so wet on the boundary no-one would field there.
What happened to the “Mongoose” that Matthew Hayden and a few other clobberers used for while, by the way? Do any top pros still use one?
Anyway, this is all very interesting, but can we please now get back to KP…?
I was wondering about the Mongoose the other day. I think Worcester’s Gareth Andrew might still use one.
Did I mention that those were my only two centuries? …. just kidding. I haven’t scored too many more though.
What’s happened to the days of professionals having a bat named after their highest score? Duncan Fearnley 405 (Hick) Stuart Surridge 333 (Gooch) Slazenger 501 (Lara) were big in the 90s and remember as a junior cricketer any teammate who got one of the above probably never scored anywhere near the numbers on them across the life of the bat.
Ah Ian. That brings back memories. I’ve just looked at the Duncan Fearnley site to see if they still do something like the Hick 405. The Richard Oliver 24 perhaps? Interestingly enough they’re doing a few throwback bats. I’m extremely tempted to by an ‘Attack’. It’s even got the old stickers from the 1980s.
This tradition continued into the 2000s, in Australia at least.
Dave here ( @Meersy )
I’m having a completely opposite problem.
I really want to relive my youth and buy some classic bats to hang in my man cave.
I’d love nothing more to hang up a Kookaburra Ridgeback (Alec Stewart), an SS Turbo 333 (Gooch), a Gray-Nicolls Scoop (Lara) and/or an Original Puma/M&H bat (early Gilchrist)!
If anyone knows where I can pick one of those up, please please let me know!
With the above in mind, I LOVE the “Legend” series of classic bats by Gray-Nicolls!
David, eBay is your friend you just need some patients.
In the mean time there are some classics here…http://custombats.co.uk/cbforum/index.php?topic=11959.0
Philip you legend!
I will start reliving my youth!
They have some mean hand made bats if you are somewhere near kent
Hell for leather
Also i would add the rotating for single thing doesnt work in t20s, its often tempting to compare to the other hitter when playing t20 but its a mistake best avoided and concentrate on one ball at a time and try to play it the best to your ability in your style.
If you are a good timer try to maximize that and adapt it to t20 rather than going for powershots that may not be natural to you.
Never look to rotate in t20 unless say you are really struggling to put bat on someone or your partner asks for it. Because its a totally unpredictable format your partner may get out with you having eaten too many balls then onus would be n you to lift it up which puts more pressure etc every ball counts.
Cheers for the tip!
Stanford bats ?
Tough job in the marketing department: “you’ll never play straight with a Stanford…” etc.
Brilliant! Have you considered a career in branding? :-)
Not sure how common this is, but here there’s a cricket store(Cornish Cricket Company), it’s run by a pretty high level cricket coach who’s dad makes some pretty nice bats, they’ve pretty much managed to monopolise cricket equipment and training in the area, it’s impressive.
Its a matter of practice, intent and strength. I bought a bat from sports direct for £30, I can hit the ball as far or further with it as some mug who has dropped £300 on one with slightly neater array of stripes but otherwise no physical difference.
I tend to look for bats with thick toes – but this is because they tend to last longer, not because they hit the ball any further – that’s a silly myth.
If you wanna hit more sixes, get down the gym.
being quick between the wickets is a huge asset in T20 as well – just try to beat the infield every ball and hustle for 2, and you will have a strikerate of 200 without even finding the boundary.
I always find it useful to go to a good shop to talk to someone who knows what they’re talking about. In your case I’d go for something in the middle of the road in terms of price. As you seem to be a stroke player you need a half decent bat, but you should really get one that lasts too
I believe that the willow grading system is based purely on looks, so you are paying top dollar for a bat that looks better than others, not one that will necessarily ping any better.
I think that modern bats benefit from having a larger ‘response’ area to older bats.
My first bat was a GN Powerspot (still got it in the back of the cupboard). The middle is tiny, literally one spot, however I have an Aldred & B3 now and the ball goes better across much more of the face of the bat.
The main thing to look for is a bat that feels comfortable as you stand holding it. Don’t shop for weight if you can avoid it. no point having a 2.10 if it tires your arms, but no point having a 2.5 if you are through shots too quickly cause it’s so light. If you can get to a decent store (talent is my local so I’m lucky) then try a few.
The other aspect is middle hight. Do you play more front foot or back foot, nurdles or power (you said stroke maker). You possibly want a higher middle, but do you play on nice bouncy tracks, or turgid all weather strips that bounce an inch.
There is alot to look at. Main thing, what are you happy to hold in your hands and how much are you happy to part with…
Thanks Andy. We play on a variety of strips really as we’re quite nomadic. I’m certainly not a power player. I’m a fairly big bloke but I rely on timing. I’ve always used bats in the 2.7 to 2.9 range.
I have really enjoyed all this! Made a lovely change. Thanks to all :-)