* Prices may differ from that shown
As I have mentioned in a variety of other reviews I tend to play a fair few games each summer for my local side and have a reviewed a selection of the bats I use. When you first buy a cricket bat though there is a process in which you have to "knock it in" before you start whacking balls around the fields seriously and this Upfront Ball Mallet has proven almost perfect for that duty! The point of "knocking" the bat in is to make the wood softer which binds it together and makes it stronger getting the bat ready to be played with. This is a process with is own unique process which can take no less than 6 hours and some people obsess over. You use this mallet to simply whack the bat face in all directions and all sorts of ways to ensure that it is ready for use and you have simulated all the possible area the ball could hit! This is the best type of mallet to use as the head is a cricket ball and you can knock the bat in far more effectively without causing damage than by using a standard mallet or ruining a good cricket ball. The device has a solid wooden handle for grip and attached to the top is the mallet itself which is a cricket ball. The whole device is a firm solid piece of kit that can take a good bashing or too. It feels like you are in form control of the force, power and direction of the whack and you can thus give a good, accurate knocking in. It is also sadistically satisfying whacking the ball in and it does a superb job. At usually under a fiver in most stores its well worth it and will provide you an excellent way to knock in your bat!
Cricket is a game played by millions, understood by thousands and has rules comprehended by hundreds. One of the great concepts in cricket is the strange habit of paying money for a piece of equipment which when bought is recommended not to use until it's been seasoned. The piece of equipment is a bat and the process is the process of 'knocking in', knocking in is a simple of process of constantly pounding the bat with either a training ball or a ball mallet until the fibres of the bat have compacted and the bat is ready for play in the middle. Knocking in can be done in two ways, one is to use the bat for several sessions in the net until the centre of the bat has had plenty of action. This constant hitting will make the bat harder in the centre and make the sweet spot of the bat bigger. Thats the time consuming manner of knocking in but the other is using a ball mallet which can be used to repeatedly hit the bat with a ball which is embedded in a wooden handle and therefore can be swung onto the face of the bat to simulate hitting a cricket ball. This method speeds up the knocking in process but is of course more tiring on the batsman's arm because traditional knocking in is done by a ball bowled by a bowler. Positives A bat will be knocked in quicker and there is less chance of the bat snapping if using a mallet because the force exerted is nothing like the force from a ball bowled hitting the bat. The bat surface can also be targeted and the centre of the bat covered quicker by hand rather than the random manner of hitting a moving ball. Negatives Very tiring on the arm and once bought is only ever used every other year, though it is recommended to give old bats a bit of a knocking every pre-season. This is the kind of product, a cricket club tends to own rather than an individual so it's best to enquire if someone has one rather than buy one yourself. The Upfront one featured is a nice one because the wooden staff is about the same length as a forearm so swinging it is easy to do and hitting a certain point isn't too difficult. The ball at the end is red as well, rather than green which some people use in the nets, I personally think seeing a bat with green marks a bit off putting.
Knocking in a cricket bat is a lengthy process that is crictical before actually using the bat in a match situation. It involves repeatedly striking the blade of the bat with a mallet, for up to as much as 10hours! Why you may ask.... the science behind it is that when struck repeatedly the fibres of the willow strengthen and group together therefore making the piece of wilow stronger when taking blows, this reduces the chance of the willow cracking or splitting into bits when playing with it. There are two types of mallets available to complete this knocking in process, a standard wooden mallet, and a ball mallet (pictured above). A standard mallet is what you imagine it to be, just a normal mallet made of wood with rounded edges so not to cause dents in the face of the willow. The ball mallet is slightly different, instead of a wooden end it has an old cricket ball glued onto the handle. This recreates the hitting of a bat with a cricket ball but at lower speeds and with a softer cricket ball. Both mallets cost around £5 and are just the job for knocking in. The advantage of using the ball mallet is that every strike is testing the willow to see if its ready. Early on in the knocking in process seam marks may appear in the blade (little lines/dents in willow) this shows the bat is not ready to use in a match as it is still too soft, as the process goes on the marks will start to disappear and that is when you know the bat is ready to use and score lots of runs with!