A batsman’s bat is like a wizard’s wand. If this is true than the Gunn and Moore factory is something of an Ollivanders. Whether the bat chooses the batsman, or the batsman chooses the bat is still a bit of a mystery.
Gunn and Moore is a Nottingham cricket institution. Started by England and Nottinghamshire batsman William Gunn and local businessman Thomas James Moore in 1885, the company was originally based near the train station, they now ply their trade in Colwick.
Before Covid-19 batsmen from around the country would come to pick up their bats – each specifically made for their requirements and have a look around the factory. Now they have to send the bats to the players and one player who recently took a delivery of bats is England’s Ben Stokes. So how is Stokes’s bat made?
“Firstly, we use English Willow, Salix Alba Caerulea, to be precise,” said Phil Tebbutt, general manager at Gunn and Moore. “It is grown in England and is predominantly the southeast. It is grown on private estates and is farmed specifically for cricket bat production.”
The bats used by the likes of Stokes are different to the ones used by your standard club cricket player on a Saturday in June. “The volume of wood is bigger for the professional bats, and Ben has an extra half grip for the bottom hand when sent out,” said Tebbutt.
Each professional has a particular way they like their bat to be and Stokes is no different, “2lb 11oz preferably, with 1/2 tolerance, 1 and a half grips.” So, if you want a bat like Ben’s, that is what you need to ask for.
“Pro players are interested in performance and balance, grain structure is important to us to provide rigidity in the shoulder and toe areas, but no player mentions the number of grains on a bat,” said Tebbutt.
With the Ashes less than a week away and preparations ramping up in Brisbane the England team have been spending a lot of time hitting balls. “For a trip like the Ashes, Ben will have taken at least eight bats with him.”
Multi-format cricket players like Stokes have to adjust not only their way of playing the game, but also their bat depending on the situation. “All the players we provide bats for have different specs for different game formats.”
Gunn and Moore have called their factory in Colwick home since 1999, before that they were based in the centre of Nottingham for 107 years. For the first seven years of the GM, they were sourced from local manufactures and sold using the marketing tool of William Gunn.
“Every English willow bat that intended for sale outside of India is manufactured in our factory in Nottingham. We are producing them at a run-rate of about 30,000 bats a year.”
How long does it take to make a bat? “Almost the identical amount of time goes into every bat we produce, only difference is handle specifications for each player. Overall, if you were to run each process back-to-back with no break time, it would take 45 minutes to make,” Tebbutt said.
The staff at GM and the rest of England will be hoping that the Ben Stokes and his bats perform and help England regain the Ashes urn.