Cricket has a proud heritage in England. The game, in some form, has been played in the UK since the 17th century and has grown to become one of England’s national sports. With the upcoming Ashes tournament being held in venues around the UK, the level of excitement surrounding cricket has never been higher. But, the game that we know and love today is almost unrecognisable to what our ancestors would have played. As the rules of the game changed over time, the cricket equipment used to play it has inevitably evolved.
Over the history of cricket, the bat is the piece of equipment that has changed most dramatically. Although to the layperson, the humble cricket bat may seem like a simple piece of sporting gear, it is actually the product of hundreds of years of evolution and innovation.
The first recorded crickets bats bear little resemblance to the bats we know today. These early bats, first used in 1624, looked more like hockey sticks. They had a long, thin handle with a wider base that was used to hit the ball.
Cricket bats soon began to change, soon resembling the bats used today. However, until 1771, there were no restrictions regarding the width of bats. This led to certain unscrupulous players using bats that were as wide as the stumps! Naturally, this was considered to be unfair, so rules preventing bats being wider than 4.25 inches came into force.
Until 1830, cricket bats were fashioned from one piece of wood, usually willow. However, this construction meant that bats were prone to shattering and breaking. To prevent this, bats started to be made from two pieces of wood. The handle was made separately and ‘spliced’ to the blade of the bat. This made the bat much stronger, and therefore safer. This method of constructing cricket bats has changed very little to this day.
Throughout the modern history of the sport, a number of cricketers have experimented with bats made from materials other than willow. Notably, in 1979 Australian cricketer Dennis Lillee used a bat made from aluminium. However, he soon reverted to using a wooden bat after the England players complained the aluminium was damaging the ball. Also, in 2005, Ricky Ponting began using a bat that had a carbon fibre-reinforced polymer support down the spine. This bat was soon banned by the ICC because it was thought to give players an unfair advantage.
Cricket Bats Today
Nowadays, there are hundreds of different cricket bats available, from cheap cricket bats for children and beginners to professional bats costing hundreds of pounds. However, they are generally all constructed in much the same way. They have rubber running through them which acts as suspension. This prevents vibration running through your hands when the ball is hit. They also have a ridge to concentrate the strength of the wood towards the middle of the bat, where the ball is normally hit. It remains to be seen if cricket bats will evolve further into the future.