Cricket Bats A cricket bat is used by batsmen in the sport of cricket. It is usually made of willow wood. The front of a Bat, showing the names for the different parts of the bat This specialised bat is shaped something like a paddle, consisting of a padded handle similar to - but sturdier than - that of a tennis racquet, which is usually cylindrical in shape. This widens into the blade of the bat, a wider wooden block flat on one side and with a V-shaped ridge on the other to provide greater air flow in the follow through and greater strength to the over-all bat. The flat side (the front of the bat) is used to hit the ball. The point at which the handle widens into the blade is known as the shoulder of the bat, and the bottom of the blade is known as the toe of the bat. The bat is traditionally made from willow wood, specifically from the Cricket-bat Willow (Salix alba var. caerulea), treated with linseed oil. This wood is used as it is very tough and shock-resistant, not being significantly dented nor splintering on the impact of a cricket ball at high speed, while also being light in weight. It incorporates a wooden spring design where the handle meets the blade. The rules of the game limit the allowable size for a bat as not more than 38 in (965 mm) long and the blade may not be more than 4.25 in (108 mm) wide. Bats typically weigh from 2 lb 8 oz to 3 lb (1.1 to 1.4 kg) though there is no standard. The handle is usually covered with a rubber or cloth sleeve to enhance grip and the face of the bat may have a protective film. Modern bats are usually machine made, however a few specialists still make hand-made bats, mostly for professional players. History Bats were not always this shape. Before the 18th century bats tended to be shaped similarly to how hockey sticks are currently shaped. This may well have been a legacy of the game's reputed origins. Although the first forms of cricket are lost in the mists of time, it may be that the game was first played using shepherds' crooks. The oldest Bat still in existence dates from 1729. Note its shape, which is very different from modern-day bats. Until the rules of cricket were formalised in the 19th century, the game usually had lower stumps, the ball was bowled underarm (whereas now it is always bowled overarm), and batsmen did not wear protective pads, as they do nowadays. As the game changed, so it was found that a differently shaped bat was better. The bat which is generally recognised as the oldest Bat still in existence is dated 1729 and is on display in the Sandham Room at the Oval in London. Bat types There are lots of different types of bats, made by different companies. Such companies include Kookaburra, Gunn and Moore, Slazenger, County, Bradbury, Newbury, Gray Nicolls, Puma, Salix, Woodworm and Hunt's County. Not all cricket bats have the same woodwork, and many companies have striven to out-do each other in terms of design Whilst the need to change was once as a result of improvements in manufacture and technology, there is now an element of variety in batmaking that caters for specific styles and attributes of particular batsmen. Besides the overall weight of the bat, an important attribute is the "pick-up"; the intrinsic weighting of the bat and the reaction it provokes in the batsman. Some batsman prefer the bat to have a lower "middle" (sweet spot) as it makes the "drive" - a type of batting stroke - easier. This is achieved by putting the majority of weight four fifths of the way down the bat. Others prefer the bat to have an evenly distributed weight along the back of the bat to provide a more general power area. Other less orthodox techniques for improving bats have also been introduced, for example, many Indian subcontinental batmakers have long preferred the bowed style of bat - a bat that has a concave blade which enhances its springiness - and their western counterparts usually favour this method for at least one of their range of bats. Some bats have "scoops" cut in parts of the blade that won't compromise on their power but will reduce the weight and make the bat easier to wield. Others take weight from the shoulders of the bat, making the bat taper outwards from the handle, as opposed to the traditional style shown above. Lately, other, lighter types of wood have been incorporated into the willow, often in the form of pegs knocked into gaps in the back and sides of the bat. Knocking In Most bats, when first purchased, are not advised to be used straight away They often include a small manual advising, for the safety of the bat, to knock in the bat by hitting the surface with a cricket ball or a special bat mallet first. This compacts the fibres within the bat and protects the bat from snapping which would often be the case should the bat not be knocked in. It is advised by many cricket bat manufacturers that the time spent knocking the bat in should be around 3 to 6 hours. However it is worth it, as the bat becomes more controllable, manipulative of the ball and provides the user with more power. Some bats, however can be purchased pre-knocked (in meaning that in the bat's creation the bat has already been knocked). The price is higher but saves the owner a lot of time. These improvements are said by most to have a negligible improving effect upon a given innings, but their main purpose is to increase the comfort and confidence of the batsman and to promote the quality and range of bats from their manufacturer. The Australian cricketer Dennis Lillee attempted to use an aluminium metal bat, but any improvement upon the traditional willow could not compensate for the noise it made when it impacted upon the ball. The rules of cricket now stipulate that the blade of a bat must be made solely of wood. More recently than Dennis Lillee, Ricky Ponting used a bat (the Kookaburra kahuna icon) with a carbon composite 'meat' (the large protruding area of wood out the back face) but the bat was altered by Kookaburra in conjunction with the ICC's demand. Gray-Nicolls and Puma have created bats with lightweight carbon handles so that more weight can be used for the blade. The bats are the Gray-Nicolls Fusion and Matrix, and the Puma Stealth.