Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Buying one...

This morning, a colleague pointed out that I'd snapped at her for using the word 'autumnal' during August. It could mean only one thing: the end of the season, with all of its unsettling melancholy, has slipped into view. Only a few more games now, and they already feel under siege from football, the X-Factor and other chilling harbingers of winter. This is always the worst time; for some reason once the last game's over it's alright again.

There is one consolation, though. The bat's done a couple of seasons; it's the nets only for the noble Gray-Nicolls from now on, and the sales are coming up. Not really joining the pantheon, that Nicolls, bloody nice bat, but have never really had the connection with it, that indefinable feeling of oneness that you get with your favourites. Found a few of them in a cupboard the other day, some of them decades old: a vintage County, Boycott-inspired probably, that always looked slightly wider than other bats; a beloved Slazenger with cracks in the face as familiar as my palm (pre-the really thick edges, that one, but still not bad on that score); a decent Powerspot gone in the splice; a Puma that enjoyed one outstanding day... always worth keeping your old bats, because they all hold something.

For a club player like me, the new acquisition has to be savoured, anticipated, relished, because they don't come around too often. There's no manufacturer knocking on our dressing room door with a van full of virgin willow, no sponsor keen to re-sticker with next year's look (though if anyone's interested, you know, I'll do you a little blog every now and again; give you an ad...), so the selection process should be long and thoughtful. 

Have seen some very nice bats out on the field this season. In our side there are a couple of Gunn & Moore's, an Epic right out of the factory with a ruler straight grain that picks up like a dream, and a handsome Luna; there's a glowing Laver & Wood with a supernatural middle; a Millichamp & Hall with some serious ping. In the various oppos we've faced, every M&H has sounded magnificent, and I'm big on how a bat sounds. Can't cheat on the sound it makes, and those boys have a deep, throaty bark that sounds like no other. Most impressive though have been a couple of old Newbery's. Both have seen better days, which makes them even greater, just generous, lovingly made bats that keep on giving and going. Die in the harness, they will, like a couple of aging shire horses...

The retro brands have a lasting nostalgic pull for me, especially the Scoop and the V12, two bats that have given me lots of runs, but no... can't go back, feels wrong. Can't go back in batting because I'm not that player any more, haven't been for a long time so have to resist. Good prices though, and affectionately done.

This time it feels like it has to be something new, a make I've never owned, something light and understated, not flash but definitely, quietly true, a bat that will bring sorrow in the parting when it comes. That's what I want, and I'll know it when I hold it. Sussex, Somerset and Kent are the places on the shortlist, so you can probably hazard a guess...


10 comments:

John Halliwell said...

“Mrs Halliwell, I understand your lad is keen on cricket?”
“Well, yes, crazy about it if truth be known”
“Good, wonderful game. I‘ve been going through some stuff I don’t use any longer and came across one of my old bats; I used it at Cambridge in the twenties. I wondered if he would like it?”
“Oh, I’m sure he’d love it as he hasn’t got one of his own!”

This was a conversation in the fifties between my Mother (daily domestic help) and the middle aged son of the very old house owner. My Mother struggled home with the bat and, with obvious pleasure, presented me with what seemed at first sight to be six feet of willow, as heavy as a railway sleeper, and of the darkest brown hue, as if kept permanently in a vat of mahogony varnish. I didn’t know what to make of her lack of awareness of the need for a bat to feel nicely balanced and comfortable in the hands as the fast bowler roared to the crease with death and destruction his sole aim. A bat handle that fitted snugly under the rib cage of a thirteen year old was somehow ergonomically wanting. But after recovering from the initial shock, I reckoned this bat may well have smashed Oxford’s attack all over Fenners for three seasons not long after the end of the Great War. How wonderful. Sadly, courage to take the bat to school failed me; it became my ‘garden’ bat, never to venture through the gate. But thanks, Mam, I know you meant well.....

@AltCricket said...

I'm using a Salix right now, it's 2'7 and has a glorious PING.

Absolute perfection!

The Old Batsman said...

John, wonderful, do you still have it?

Cheers Alt, they're very much on my list. Good to hear. Perfect weight.

John Halliwell said...

Sadly, OB, I don't, and I do regret it. For the life of me I can't remember what happened to it; I think it disappeared at some point after I left home. My Mother probably gave it to another 'deserving' lad, thinking my interest in the bat had passed.

I remember several years ago going to collect my youngest daughter from a friend's house (a farmhouse) and I discovered that said friend's dad was a collector of bats. The collection ran from the front door, through the hallway, up the stairs and across the landing. It was impossible to find out much about the collection as it was a quick pick-up of my girl. I looked forward to going back, but sadly the opportunity never arose as the girls' friendship was rather fleeting. I often wonder what happened to the collection; perhaps it now takes up two bedrooms as well as the hallway, the stairs...........

Joe Craig said...

Lovely post.
Over the years I've been through the usual cast, starting with a 'Powerspot Tuffcoat', through the V12, the V600 (which was extraordinary) a terrible GM and a brutal MRF.
I picked up 3 bats in India which I love with all my heart, particularly a 'Larson's RNS' and an SS 'Ton'.
But really I came to leave a comment so I could recommend Warsop Stebbing, a little company in Essex who repair bats, make bats and have even cloned my favourite bat for me so that I can, in theory, keep using a new version of the same bat for the rest of my life, if I want to do that.

The Old Batsman said...

Ah, the V12 - what a bat that was. i like the reissue that Matt Prior seems to have. You may have out the cat among the pigeons with Warsop, Joe. Didn't Graham Napier get his 150-odd in T20 with one? I do hear good things. They always strike me as being big bats tho' - do they go down to the lighter weights?
Love the cloning service - does it feel exactly the same?

Joe Craig said...

I haven't used the Warsop-Stebbing clone in anger yet - just knocking it in etc. But the feel & pick up is identical & they've found a bit of willow that looks to be of the same quality as the original.
They seem to be able to make any size, shape & weight of bat you like!
There are 3 others that have caught my eye but I haven't personally tried yet:
'PiriPiri', 'Aedos' and 'Instinct'. Might be worth checking them out too..

The Crap Cricketer said...

Lovely stuff, mind if I point you here:

http://crapcricketer.blogspot.co.uk/2011/04/bats-i-have-loved.html

And here:

http://crapcricketer.blogspot.co.uk/2012/06/some-more-bats-which-i-have-loved.html

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Host Pay Per Head said...

haha well believe it or not, I have no found a girl yet that likes cricket, I don't know if it is because cricket is not well-known sports or what