Junior cricket bats

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  • Updated:23 Dec 2006
 

01 .Introduction

Junior-cricket-bats

Expert review of 12 junior cricket bats, size Harrow or six, priced from $30 to $175

Our experts assessed the bats for:

  • Comfort and ease of use, including weight, balance and the handle.
  • Playability: the hitting power and size of the sweet spot.
  • Quality of construction.
  • Overall quality and value for money.

Please note: this information was current as of December 2006 but is still a useful guide today.


Our five expert reviewers were:

  • Michael Slater, former test cricketer and top-order batsman.
  • Lisa Sthalekar, current NSW women's cricket captain and vice-captain of the Australian Women’s cricket team.
  • Julian Millichamp, master bat maker.
  • Dean Magee, cricket manager at Kingsgrove Sports Centre in Sydney.
  • David Mason, secretary and coach of the Marrickville RSL Junior Cricket Club. 

How are CHOICE tests different? We buy all the products we test - no industry freebies, no government funding. We're non-profit, we don't take ads and our work is funded solely by people like you.

Findings:

  • Generally, the better the bat, the more you pay for it. But some are much better value for money than others.
  • A brand name or player’s name doesn’t necessarily guarantee a better bat.
  • Make sure the bat fits the player; it’s worth getting advice from a specialist store.

Brands tested

  • AERIAL Kashmir Willow
  • CRICKET AUSTRALIA Test
  • GRAY-NICOLLS Fusion Enforcer
  • GRAY-NICOLLS Powerbow 500
  • KOOKABURRA Genesis 8000
  • KOOKABURRA Kahuna Magic
  • MRF Prodigy
  • PUMA Ballistic 3000
  • PUMA Gilchrist
  • SLAZENGER V23 Kashmir
  • SLAZENGER V389 Select
  • WOODWORM Pieterson Pioneer Torch
 
 

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What to buy

For hard ball competition:

  • SLAZENGER V389 Select - $135
  • GRAY-NICOLLS Fusion Enforcer - $80
  • KOOKABURRA Genesis 8000 - $175
  • GRAY-NICOLLS Powerbow 500 - $135
  • PUMA Ballistic 3000 - $150

For soft ball / backyard:

  • KOOKABURRA Kahuna Magic - $50
  • CRICKET AUSTRALIA Test - $38
  • PUMA Gilchrist - $50

What about the rest?

  • The MRF is OK, but heavy and not well balanced. However, it’s reasonable value for a kid strong enough to use it.
  • The SLAZENGER V23 Kashmir is also too heavy and unbalanced. There are better bats for the same money.
  • The WOODWORM is too heavy and long for a Harrow size and would be too much for most youngsters to handle. But it’s otherwise well made and good value for a kid who’s big and strong enough to wield it.
  • The AERIAL is made from poor quality wood and isn’t well finished. It’s only suitable for backyard play with a tennis ball, and isn’t great value even for that.

Results table

  Results Specifications Features
Brand/model Overall score Size Overall length (cm) Length of handle (cm) Weight (g) Weight in lbs and oz* Origin Literature provided Pre-treatment Protective coating Accessories provided Price paid ($) **
SLAZENGER V389 Select Very good H 82.8 27.3 980.7 2 lb 2.6 oz India None None Rubber toe war paint stickers, wrist sweat band 135
GRAY-NICOLLS Fusion Enforcer Very good 6 81.2 26.6 985.4 2 lb 2.8 oz India Care instruction booklet 'Ready to play' sticker Clear plastic sleeve on lower face/edges, rubber toe none 80
KOOKABURRA Genesis 8000 Good H 82.2 26.5 1024.9 2 lb 4.2 oz India Product catalogue - no care instructions not stated Rubber toe none 175
GRAY-NICOLLS Powerbow 500 Good H 82.5 27 1043.6 2 lb 4.8 oz India Care instruction booklet 'Ready to play' sticker Clear plastic sleeve on lower face/edges, rubber toe none 135
PUMA Ballistic 3000 Good H 83 28.5 1044.5 2 lb 4.9 oz India Care instruction swing tag 'Puma pre-prepared' label (B) Clear plastic sleeve on lower face/edges, rubber toe none 150
KOOKABURRA Kahuna Magic OK H 81.5 26.8 972.2 2 lb 2.3 oz not stated Product catalogue - no care instructions not stated Cloth covering on face and back, painted back, painted toe none 50
CRICKET AUSTRALIA Test OK 6 81 26.3 965.6 2 lb 2.1 oz India None 'Ready to play' sticker Cloth covering on face, painted back, rubber toe none 38
PUMA Gilchrist OK H 82.5 28 1036.1 2 lb 4.6 oz India Care instruction swing tag 'Does not require oiling' sticker Varnished face and back none 50
MRF Prodigy OK H 83 29 1066.3 2 lb 5.6 oz India Care instruction booklet not stated none none 60
SLAZENGER V23 Kashmir Borderline H 81.9 26.4 1048.2 2 lb 5 oz India None None Cloth covering on face, rubber toe war paint stickers, wrist sweat band 50
WOODWORM Pieterson Pioneer Torch Borderline (A) H 84.7 28 1079.4 2 lb 6.1 oz not stated Care instruction booklet not stated 'Fibreface' coating on lower face/edges, rubber toe none 60
AERIAL Kashmir Willow Poor 6 79.5 25.5 853.3 1 lb 14.1 oz India Care instructions sticker on back not stated none none 30
 

Table notes

* Cricket bat weights are traditionally expressed in pounds and ounces.
** Price paid in October 2006.
(A) See profile for further explanation.
(B) Instructions state it's ready for immediate use against old balls. Further knocking-in recommended.

This article last reviewed December 2006

The models in the What to buy list are profiled below in rank order. Prices are what we paid in October 2006. Most of the tested bats are available in a range of junior sizes.

SLAZENGER V389 Select

Price: $135
Size tested: Harrow
Suitable for: Hard ball competition

Trialist comments:

Michael Slater: “Looks and feels great. Very good extensive middle. Feels like it has all the right attributes. Really well placed value.”

Lisa Sthalekar: “Good light pick-up, The grip is colourful and different. Needs knocking in and oiling. Very good value.”

Julian Millichamp: “Very good playability. A lovely little bat. Finish is a bit cheap. Good value, but will need preparation and maintenance."

Dean Magee: “Perfect weight for a kid. Best suited to a top junior. The best value bat in test, along with the KOOKABURRA Kahuna Magic and the GRAY-NICOLLS Fusion Enforcer.”

David Mason: “Nice long sweet spot. Good grip. Good for players at club or district level. A bargain.”

 

GRAY-NICOLLS Fusion Enforcer

Price: $80
Size tested: Six
Suitable for: Hard ball competition

Trialist comments:

Michael Slater: “Nearly too heavy; better for a stronger kid. Good pick-up and balance. A powerful little bat. Excellent value.”

Lisa Sthalekar: “Good pick-up and handle. Suited to a wide range of players, perfect for club cricket. A bargain.”

Julian Millichamp: “Feels good. Fantastic quality for a Kashmir willow bat. If I wasn't a bat maker, I would buy one for my own son."

Dean Magee: “A fraction bottom heavy. Great bat for first year of hard ball cricket. Beautiful shape and graphics. Top grade Kashmir willow. Great value.”

David Mason: “OK balance but not great. A good all round bat for hard or soft ball. Good value.”

KOOKABURRA Genesis 8000

Price: $175
Size tested: Harrow
Suitable for: Hard ball competition

Trialist comments:

Michael Slater: “Medium heavy. Grip is comfortable and sticky. Really good middle. Looks good. A serious competition bat.”

Lisa Sthalekar: “A bit bottom heavy. Kids would love the funky grip. Maybe better suited to a 13-14 year old, middle or lower order comp player. Overpriced: should be $120.”

Julian Millichamp: “Heavy pick-up, feels bottom heavy. Very nice hitting power. Good value for performance, but not for balance and feel."

Dean Magee: “Good balance, handle and grip. A perfect kid's bat for hard ball comp. Great value, but this bat is now hard to find in stores.”

David Mason: “Good grip - non-slip and absorbs shock. Big sweet spot. Suitable for a top junior. May be wasted on a less skilled player, but good value for a kid who can make use of its power.”

GRAY-NICOLLS Powerbow 500

Price: $135
Size tested: Harrow
Suitable for: Hard ball competition

Trialist comments:

Michael Slater: “Would need to be a stronger 12 year old. Pick-up a bit dead; overall heavy feel. Looks good but too much wood's been removed from the back, reducing the sweet spot. OK value.”

Lisa Sthalekar: “Feels heavy, but nice pick-up. Good middle. A tad heavy. Pretty reasonable value.”

Julian Millichamp: “A bit wieldy and toe-heavy. Good for a stronger player. Good value."

Dean Magee: “Good balance and pick-up. A good first English willow bat for a junior starting hard ball comp. Just about right for the money.”

David Mason: “Feels light and nice. Good balance and pick-up. Good grip. Well made. Good value.”

PUMA Ballistic 3000

Price: $150
Size tested: Harrow
Suitable for: Hard ball competition

Trialist comments:

Michael Slater: “Particularly bottom heavy. Distinct oval base of grip is very good as it allows correct grip. But the grip is very thin at the top. OK middle, hard face surface. Good bat for hard ball comp. Presents well.”

Lisa Sthalekar: “Bottom heavy. Don't like the flared grip as it encourages kids to grip too hard. Too heavy for a 12 year old, OK for a 13-14 year old. A good batter could use this well. Not good value; should be $130.”

Julian Millichamp: “Very good pick-up, handle shape is good for teaching correct grip. Good finish and presentation. Better for a stronger kid. Good but not great value."

Dean Magee: “A bit toe heavy. Great handle; helps train a kid to use grip properly. Excellent hitting power. A good second English willow bat for a kid who's really getting into serious play. Decent value.”

David Mason: “Good balance, feels light. Good grip, allows correct grip and prevents slipping, but maybe too large for a kid with small hands. Suited to better players. A little overpriced; should be $140.”

KOOKABURRA Kahuna Magic

Price: $50
Size tested: Harrow
Suitable for: Backyard/soft ball; could be used for a minimal amount of hard ball play

Trialist comments:

Michael Slater: “OK pick-up. Slippery grip. Face is as hard as rock. Nice cosmetics. Not for serious comp; suited to backyard or school cricket. Could take a minimal amount of hard ball. No better than the CRICKET AUSTRALIA, but it has the KOOKABURRA name.”

Lisa Sthalekar: “Good pick-up. Not ideal for hard ball, but could be used. Best suited to backyard or school cricket. A better middle than the other cheap bats.”

Julian Millichamp: “Good balance and pick-up, but very thick handle. Only good for soft ball. Reasonable value."

Dean Magee: “A starter's bat, only good for soft ball. OK value.”

David Mason: “Reasonable pick-up. A bit heavy through the air. Sensible value bat. OK for hard ball.”

CRICKET AUSTRALIA Test

Price: $38
Size tested: Six
Suitable for: Backyard/soft ball; could be used for a minimal amount of hard ball play

Trialist comments:

Michael Slater: “Dead pick-up. Not a nice feel. Backyard soft ball play only. Well protected, looks attractive. Not for the talented youngster, but a much better buy than the AERIAL.”

Lisa Sthalekar: “Bottom heavy pick-up. Backyard softball or Incrediball only. Looks good. OK value.”

Julian Millichamp: “Good strong all-weather bat. Could be used with hard ball, but better suited to soft ball. Good value for money."

Dean Magee: “A bit heavy for a kid's bat. Backyard and beach cricket only, but would survive some hard ball use. Looks good. OK value; should be $35.”

David Mason: “Feels heavy. Slippery grip. Durable enough for hard ball but won't play well. Better for a stronger kid. Good, for a cheap bat.”

PUMA Gilchrist

Price: $50
Size tested: Harrow
Suitable for: Backyard/soft ball only

Trialist comments:

Michael Slater: “Dead pick-up. OK middle. Not durable enough for hard ball; the surface finish cracks when tested.”

Lisa Sthalekar: “A little bottom heavy. Nice handle. Backyard or soft ball only. Lacquer finish cracks easily. OK value.”

Julian Millichamp: “Good pick-up and good handle thickness. No good for hard ball. An all-weather backyard bat."

Dean Magee: “Pick-up a bit heavy. Soft wood; only good for backyard soft ball cricket. Not good value; should be $35.”

David Mason: “OK pick-up and swing, but not great. OK for hard ball but the lacquer coating will crack, so should get a protective sleeve. OK value, but the KOOKABURRA Kahuna Magic is better value as it has similar playability and has a protective coating.”

MRF Prodigy

Price: $60
Size tested: Harrow
Suitable for: Hard ball competition

Trialist comments:

Michael Slater: “Verging on too heavy as it has a lot of wood. Would need to be a strong 12 year old. Handle too long and blade too short. Dead pick-up. Surprisingly good middle. Needs knocking-in. Very well priced.”

Lisa Sthalekar: “Too heavy for 12 year olds; better suited to 15-16 year olds due to its size and weight. Heavy pick-up. handle too thin. Not for top batters. Reasonable value.”

Julian Millichamp: “Heavy pick-up, feels bottom heavy. Width is inconsistent and handle too long. Might be OK for a very strong 12 year old. OK for hard ball but may not last due to cracking on face. OK value."

Dean Magee: “A fraction heavy. Better for a stronger kid. A starter's bat, OK for the first year of hard ball comp. Good value.”

David Mason: “Heavy to swing, feels a little toe heavy. Slightly slippery grip. Good power in trade-off for the extra weight. Good bat for a strong kid on a budget. Good value provided the kid can handle the weight.”

SLAZENGER V23 Kashmir

Price: $50
Size tested: Harrow
Suitable for: Backyard/soft ball; could be used for a minimal amount of hard ball play

Trialist comments:

Michael Slater: “Not great pick-up. Restricted sweet spot. Suited to backyard or school soft ball play; some hard ball would be OK but the bat wouldn't last under frequent hard ball use.”

Lisa Sthalekar: “Well balanced but too heavy. Suited to beach or backyard only. Good colours. Overpriced; should be $30.”

Julian Millichamp: “Feels heavy; doesn't feel right or nice. Handle is very rigid. Could stand up to hard ball but wouldn't play well."

Dean Magee: “Good backyard or kit bat. Maybe OK for first year of hard ball cricket. Not good value; should be $35.”

David Mason: “Feels a little heavy in the air. Restricted sweet spot. Good entry level bat, OK for hard ball. The KOOKABURRA Kahuna Magic is preferable due to being lighter.”

WOODWORM Pieterson Pioneer Torch

Price: $60
Size tested: Harrow
Suitable for: Hard ball competition

Trialist comments:

Michael Slater: “Very heavy; have to be a big strapping kid to use this bat. No great pick-up. Oval handle feels fantastic and very comfortable. Excellent long sweet spot. Looks good and well made. A solid performer and excellent value if the kid is strong enough.”

Lisa Sthalekar: “Too heavy; better for a 15-16 year old. OK bat, I like the design and shape. A bargain if the kid is strong enough to use it.”

Julian Millichamp: “Too heavy and long for a Harrow. May be a mislabelled Small Men's size*. Good playability and protection. Very poor for size and weight, but otherwise OK value."

Dean Magee: "Too heavy for a Harrow. Very big; may be a mislabelled Small Men's*. Size is questionable, but otherwise an OK bat, good for hard ball and good value for money."

David Mason: "A bit heavier than it should be. Pick-up all right, but heavy to swing. Best for a strong kid; probably too heavy for a typical 12 year old. A bargain if the kid can handle the weight, and better than the similar MRF."

* Note: WOODWORM confirmed that this bat is the correct weight for their Harrow size. Its weight is within commonly accepted limits for a Harrow size Kashmir willow bat, but nevertheless the panel generally thought it felt too heavy. WOODWORM also stated that this bat is 1.5 cm longer than industry standard for a Harrow size.

AERIAL Kashmir Willow

Price: $30
Size tested: Six
Suitable for: Backyard/soft ball only

Trialist comments:

Michael Slater: "Too light. Very light pick-up. Doesn't feel like it has a sweet spot. Poor quality wood. OK for beach/backyard games with soft ball."

Lisa Sthalekar: "Heavy - maybe better for a 14-15 year old. Looks flimsy - like a bit of wood with a handle. Backyard/soft ball only."

Julian Millichamp: "Very light, but that's good for this size. Lacks quality finish. Not suitable for hard ball."

Dean Magee: "Terrible shape. Doesn't feel good. Only suited to soft ball. Maybe pine wood rather than willow. Poor value - should be $15 including stumps and ball."

David Mason: "Nice and light. Nice pick-up. Maybe not durable enough for hard ball - may be pine wood. Suitable for soft ball/backyard. OK value but should really be $20-25."

We looked at junior cricket bats priced up to $200, suitable for kids around the age of 12. We looked for bats around two price points, $50 and $150, so as to get a good range, from budget backyard bats to serious competition bats.

Kids of this age will generally use a Harrow, which is the largest junior size of cricket bat. We couldn’t find a Harrow size for some bats, so for these we chose a size six, which is a fraction smaller than a Harrow and would still be suitable for many 12 year olds.

But when you're selecting a bat for yourself or your youngster, age isn't the determining factor. Choose a bat to suit the player’s height and strength and the type of cricket they’re playing. See How to choose a bat .

Five experts separately examined each bat and scored it for the following aspects, with regard to use by a typical 12 year old player.

  • Comfort and ease of use: this included aspects such as weight, balance and the thickness and grip of the handle.
  • Playability: this covers the hitting power of the bat and the size of its sweet spot (the area on the front face that gives maximum hitting power). The experts assessed this by testing the bat’s surface with a bat mallet and/or a hard leather cricket ball.
  • Construction: the design, shape and quality of manufacture.
  • The sort of player and style of game the bat is suited to: backyard, soft ball or hard ball competition.
  • Having assessed the above qualities, the experts gave each bat an overall score.
  • After scoring the bat, the experts were told its price and then rated it for value for money.

This may be the first independent test of a wide range of junior cricket bats ever done in Australia.

Our expert reviewers

  • Michael Slater: “Slats” was one of Australia’s top-order Test batsmen for nearly 10 years, scoring over 5000 Test runs at an average of 42.83. He retired from playing professional cricket in 2004. When playing, he was sponsored by Gray-Nicolls.
  • Lisa Sthalekar: Lisa has played for NSW since 1998 and for Australia since 2001. She’s currently captain of the NSW Breakers and vice-captain of the Australian Women’s cricket team, the Southern Stars. She’s sponsored by Gray-Nicolls.
  • Julian Millichamp: Julian is one of the most highly regarded bat makers in the industry and runs his own bat making company, Screaming Cat. He’s handcrafted bats for many of the game’s top players.
  • Dean Magee: Dean is the cricket manager at Kingsgrove Sports Centre in Sydney, one of the largest specialist cricket stores in Australia. He also plays first grade cricket and is personally sponsored by Gray-Nicolls.
  • David Mason: David is the secretary and coach of the Marrickville RSL Junior Cricket Club.

All first-class cricket players, and even many grade players, have sponsorship deals with bat makers. Although some of our experts have (or had) sponsorship or other commercial deals with some of the tested brands, they were impartial in their assessment of the bats. We didn't hide the brand labels on each bat during the trial, as that would require removing labels or covering much of the back, face and handle, which could affect the bat's performance.

This article last reviewed December 2006.

05.How to choose a bat

 

The first and best piece of advice is to buy your cricket bat from a specialist cricket retailer. They should be able to offer good advice and help to choose a bat that’s right for you. Also, they can often offer other services such as knocking-in (preparing the bat’s surface for play) and adding a protective sleeve to the bat.

And as with any product, try to ignore any marketing hype when choosing a bat. Endorsement by your favourite cricket star is no guarantee that a bat's the right one for you.

Regardless of whether the bat’s for a youngster or an adult, it should always be selected with three things in mind:

  • Size (length) of the bat. A player’s height determines what size of bat will best fit them. A good rule of thumb to take your batting stance, with the toe of the bat resting against the outside of your back foot. If the bat's the right size for you, the top of its handle should rest against the inside groin of your front leg. Don’t make the mistake of thinking a kid will “grow into” a larger bat size; it could be too long or heavy for them and frustrate their playing, or cause them to learn bad batting habits. For example, it's hard to take a proper stance and play accurate strokes with a bat that's too long. And it's very hard to make pull and cut strokes with a bat that's too heavy, so the youngster won't be able to effectively learn these strokes. A bat that's too big can result in mistimed shots or even worse, getting out. Choose a bat that’s right for them now.
  • Weight. A bat that’s too heavy or unbalanced to be easily wielded won’t do. It won’t allow strokes to be played quickly and the player will get tired too soon. A common mistake is to buy kids (or let them choose) a bat that’s too heavy for them, just because it looks powerful. Hold the bat at arm’s length with your top hand (i.e. the left hand if you’re right handed, or vice versa). If you can’t hold it comfortably, then the bat’s too heavy for you. Most importantly, it should feel nice and light in the pick-up, i.e. when raising it back to play a shot. The balance, pick-up and overall "feel" is more important than the weight.
  • Type of cricket being played. There’s no point buying a top grade English willow bat just for whacking a tennis ball around the backyard. Likewise, a bat that’s intended for backyard use might not survive against a hard competition ball, and won’t play well.

What else to look for

  • A handle that’s not too thick, so you can get a good grasp on it, and with a rubber grip that won’t twist or slip in your hands.
  • Nice thick edges and plenty of wood in the middle of the bat help give a bat a large sweet spot. But make sure the bat isn’t too heavy or unbalanced as a result.
  • Quality of construction. Look for well finished faces and edges with no rough spots, no visible flaws in the face of the bat, and check that the handle is not off centre.
  • Pre-treatment: if the bat is labelled as pre-prepared or “ready to play”, the initial knocking-in has been done and the bat is OK to play straight away. This is a good feature for a junior bat when the young player can’t wait to start using it. Protective coatings, such as a clear poly sleeve on the face and a rubber toe, can help make the bat more durable. These can usually be added to the bat if the bat doesn't come with them.
  • If you’re playing serious competition cricket, it’s worth choosing a bat that suits your style of play. Some bats are designed for big hitting; others are designed for light, fast pick-up and precise strokes. And once you’ve picked your model, try a few samples of it; there can be variation from sample to sample, so look for the very best of the bunch.

Looking after your bat

  • A good quality bat deserves to be properly maintained. Knocking-in the face and edges by lightly hitting them with an old leather ball or a bat mallet compresses and toughens the wood, reducing the risk of cracking. Oiling with linseed oil helps seal and protect the wood. Get expert advice on these treatments as you can overdo them. Pre-treated bats with protective sleeves don't generally need oiling and the initial knocking-in has already been done for you.

Types of willow

Cricket bats are made from willow wood, except for the very cheapest of bats which might be made from pine. Willow is ideal for cricket bats; it’s a soft fibrous wood and is very springy, giving good striking power in the centre of the bat.

There are two types of willow used in bats: English and Kashmir.

  • English willow is the best type of willow and is the most expensive. English willow bats generally cost over $100 at minimum, and the best bats can cost well over $500. There are different grades of English willow, ranging from G1+ (the very best) down to G4.
  • Kashmir willow, grown in India, is a harder, denser variety. It’s less springy than English willow so doesn’t offer as good playability. However, it’s also cheaper and harder wearing, and for these reasons most junior bats are made from Kashmir willow. Premium quality Kashmir can give similar playability to low-grade English willow.

This article last reviewed December 2006.