From pads to helmets, bats to balls, stumps to bails, there are plenty of items needed to play cricket and caring for cricket equipment plays a big part in a player’s overall enjoyment of the sport.
When playing at a competitive level, players will need their own cricket equipment including protective equipment and their own bat. However, new players can’t simply turn up to a match, walk out on to the crease and start hitting the ball. Before this, players must knock in their bat, so it is ready to withstand the various impacts of a hard cricket ball.
But what does it mean to ‘knock-in’ a cricket bat? How do you do it? How long does it take? And what happens if you don’t knock in your bat? We have all the answers and details for these questions below.
What Is Knocking-in a Cricket Bat?
The term ‘knocking-in’ is widely used by professional and amateur players in cricket. It refers to using a small, specialised mallet, or another object, to strike the surface of a new, unused bat so it is suitably prepared for use against the speed of a real delivery in the nets or a match.
‘Knocking-in’ is carried out to compress the fibres within the willow (the wood used to make cricket bats) so the bat is tough and ready to withstand the impact of a cricket ball across all its surfaces. As a result of the knocking-in process, a new bat is less prone to cause scuffing, indentation or, in a worst-case scenario, snapping in half.
How to Knock-in a Cricket Bat - Step-by-Step Guide
If you buy a new cricket bat, some manufacturers may offer additional services to knock in your bat.
However, the process can be completed individually, as long as you have access to the correct equipment including, linseed oil (or specialist cricket bat oil) and a specialist knocking-in mallet.
RUSTINS LINSEED OIL
GM CRICKET BAT MALLET
Once you have these items, certain steps need to be taken to ensure a bat is fully prepared for use in a real match scenario.
- Oiling the bat – Before beginning the knocking-in process, apply a small amount of oil over the face, toe, edges, top and back of the bat. All areas must be covered as the entire bat needs to be protected from the force of a cricket ball. Then, use a thin cloth or your fingers to rub the oil into each area. Once the bat is covered in oil, leave it in an upright position for approximately 12 hours so the oil soaks into the fibres. It’s important not to apply too much oil to the bat before knocking it in, otherwise, it becomes too supple and will become less compressed during the knocking-in process.
- Use a wooden mallet to start striking the wood – Once you have left the oil to soak into the willow, you can use a specialist wooden mallet to start tapping the bat. Light hits should be applied at first and then increasing force can be used over time to strengthen the fibres in the bat. While this process can be used on the face of the bat, the edges, toe and shoulders require glancing strikes and less force. Too much force to these areas can cause the wood to crack or split.
- Repeat – The above step must be completed for roughly 2-4 hours until the wood is strong enough to strike a cricket ball without marks or dents appearing. As a general rule, 15 minutes per shoulder, and on the toe and edges is a good amount of time to spend on these areas. But the majority of the knocking-in will take place on the face, or blade, of the bat.
- Test – Testing the bat with an old cricket ball is the best way to determine whether it is ready or if it needs more knocking-in. First, take an old ball and practice some short throws and light strikes with the bat. If marks appear easily, or the ball starts to dent the bat, more knocking-in is required. Repeat this process until the bat is ready to be used in the nets. Like the knocking-in process, increasing the speed and force of delivery gradually in the nets is a good way to judge if the bat is good to use, or if it needs more knocking-in.
- Ready to use – After two or three practice sessions in the nets with your new bat, it should be sturdy enough to take out to the crease to face a new ball. If the bat provides a hollow sound when connecting with the ball, it’s a good sign that the bat is ready.
How Long Does It Take to Knock-in a Cricket Bat?
There is no uniformed or specified time it takes to knock in a cricket bat. It will be ready to use once the wood used to make the bat is robust enough to withstand the force of a bowler’s delivery.
However, as a general rule, the entire process can take a couple of days (if you are applying oil and allowing it to set into the wood). Knocking-in specifically can take between 2-4 hours, or longer if you have to return to knocking-in if the bat isn’t ready.
As cricket bats are made from different grades of willow and have different weights, the knocking-in process can vary between each bat. Therefore, testing the bat is important and can be a quick sign to show a player whether their bat is ready. If you feel the bat is not ready for use in the nets or a game, don’t use it.
What Happens if You Don't Knock-in a Cricket Bat?
If a cricket bat isn’t knocked in, the damage can vary from scuff marks, caused by a cricket ball, to the wood snapping in half.
Although knocking-in is a good way to protect your bat from any immediate damage caused by the ball, all cricket bats do eventually succumb to wear and tear from regular and constant use. However, knocking-in is a sure way of extending a bat’s use by a good few year. A good quality bat, that is knocked in properly and maintained to a good standard will be a positive investment and will withstand some of the toughest deliveries from bowlers at any level.
How Do You Knock in a Cricket Bat Without a Mallet?
You do not necessarily need a specialist mallet to knock in a cricket bat. Essentially, you can use any hard, flat implement to knock in a bat, as long as it does not cause lasting damage to the willow.
Old cricket balls can also be used to knock in a new cricket bat. The key to perfecting the knocking-in process is to start with light strikes each time and increase the force when necessary to bind the fibres in the wood.
However, specialist mallets are designed specifically to compress fibres in the willow and, to save time and potential early wear and tear, a good mallet is worth investing in.
Can You Knock in a Bat Before Oiling It?
Oiling a new bat is another layer of protection for when it is ready to use in a real game situation. Players can knock in a cricket bat without oiling it, however, it won’t have the same robustness compared to a bat that has been oiled then knocked in.
Specialist oils specifically react to willow and help soften the fibres, preparing it for the knocking-in process. Similarly, in comparison to not using a specialist mallet, it is possible to not use oil, but it is a good investment to improve the quality and longevity of a bat.
Do You Need to Treat Your Bat After Knocking It in?
Once a cricket bat has been knocked in and used, it could be left untreated until it eventually breaks or gets worn and torn from use.
However, taking the time to treat a bat, even after it has been broken in, increases its shelf-life massively. Players can use fibre tape to further protect the edges of a bat, or anti-scuff sheets can be placed over a bat to prevent cracking. Also, investing in a high-quality cover offers good protection for a cricket bat from the elements when it’s not being used, helping to keep it dry to prevent any natural wear and tear.
KOOKABURRA Fibreglass Cricket Bat Tape
Kookaburra ARMOURTEC FACING
Knocking-in can seem like a daunting process for any cricket player at first, particularly for new players to the game, as it requires a lot of patience and perseverance. However, taking the time to get knocking-in right, and resisting the rush to take your bat into the nets for a spin straight away, pays off in the long run with a bat that will last for years.