As a specialist in the art of knocking-in, we (It’s Just Cricket) have knocked in thousands of cricket bats over the years. Despite many manufacturers and other retailers nowadays using a machine to do the job, we have always knocked in bats the old-fashioned way: by hand, with a mallet. We believe this is still the best way to do it, as it ensures more control, enables the edges to be rounded properly, and ultimately knocks in the bat fully, unlike a machine, which can only really do part of the job.
However, knocking in a bat manually can be a daunting prospect: an arduous and noisy task, which takes hours and is easy to get wrong, unless you know exactly what you’re doing. In this article, we have drawn from our years of experience, and provided a step-by-step guide on how to knock in your cricket bat. If you are about to embark on the job for the first time, or are otherwise unsure about the process, we hope you find it useful.
Step 1: Using raw linseed or specialist cricket bat oil, apply two light coats of oil to your bat (face, edges and back) using a soft cloth or your fingertips. Do not apply too much oil, just enough so it darkens slightly. Allow the oil to soak in and dry after each coat by leaving the bat in a horizontal position for 24 hours.
Step 2: Begin to knock in your bat, by lightly tapping with a specialist wooden mallet. Start by rounding the edges, holding the bat at a 45-degree angle and knocking in from the toe to the shoulder on each edge. The edges are vulnerable to cracking, especially if there is heartwood, so be careful to start very lightly, but gradually increase in force until you notice the edges rounding and becoming smoother. Apply less force to the shoulder areas, but enough for them to become rounded. Continue this process on each edge until they stop rounding. Ideally, you should be spending at least fifteen minutes on each edge.
Step 3: Knock in the toe of your bat. Unlike the edges, the toe needs to be knocked square on, but also needs to be tapped very lightly to begin with, gradually increasing in force. You will notice indentations starting to appear. Keep knocking it in until you no longer get these indentations.
Step 4: Knock in the rest of your bat, including the sweet spot. Since this area is stronger than the toe and edges, you can hit it with a bit more force, but still be careful to still only strike it quite lightly to begin with, gradually increasing in power as the indentations start appearing. Knock in everywhere, including the parts covered by stickers, but avoid the splice. Continue to knock in the bat and, after a while, apply as much force as you can (you want to be emulating the impact of a ball striking the face at high speed) until it stops indenting.
Step 5: Stop knocking in the bat and start bouncing an old ball on it. Test all areas of the blade. If seam marks appear, spend around half an hour longer knocking in these particular areas. Then do the ball bouncing test again. If the seam marks no longer appear, the bat is fully knocked in.
Step 6: When the knocking-in is complete, consider protecting the bat by applying an anti-scuff sheet and/or fibreglass edge tape, both of which will stick to the bat better after it has been knocked in. These additional accessories are optional, but we recommend them as they will prolong the life of your bat, which despite being fully knocked in, is still susceptible to cracking at this stage, especially on the toe and edges. If you choose to apply an anti-scuff sheet, be careful to only do so at least 4-5 days after the last coat of oil was applied, as the bat face may not be dry enough to allow it to stick properly otherwise.
Step 7: Once fully knocked in, the process won’t ever need repeating for the duration of the bat’s life, but you do need to “play it in” before taking it out to the middle. This means testing the bat in the nets against an old leather ball or bowling machine balls. Do not, under any circumstances, use your bat in a match or against a new ball, before you have played it in. We recommend a minimum of two long nets, playing mainly defensively in the first net. Gradually, you can start to play a bit more aggressively, but still focus mainly on front foot shots and don’t even attempt any cross batted shots until the end of the second net at the earliest.