This specialised bat is shaped something like a paddle, consisting of a padded handle similar to - but sturdier than - that of a tennis racquet, which is usually cylindrical in shape. This widens into the blade of the bat, a wider wooden block flat on one side and with a V-shaped ridge on the other to provide greater air flow in the follow through and greater strength to the over-all bat. The flat side (the front of the bat) is used to hit the ball. The point at which the handle widens into the blade is known as the shoulder of the bat, and the bottom of the blade is known as the toe of the bat.
The bat is traditionally made from willow wood, specifically from the Cricket-bat Willow (Salix alba var. caerulea), treated with linseed oil. This wood is used as it is very tough and shock-resistant, not being significantly dented nor splintering on the impact of a cricket ball at high speed, while also being light in weight. It incorporates a wooden spring design where the handle meets the blade. The rules of the game limit the allowable size for a bat as not more than 38 in (965 mm) long and the blade may not be more than 4.25 in (108 mm) wide. Bats typically weigh from 2 lb 8 oz to 3 lb (1.1 to 1.4 kg) though there is no standard. The handle is usually covered with a rubber or cloth sleeve to enhance grip and the face of the bat may have a protective film.
Modern bats are usually machine made, however a few specialists still make hand-made bats, mostly for professional players.
Until the rules of cricket were formalised in the 19th century, the game usually had lower stumps, the ball was bowled underarm (whereas now it is bowled overarm except on very rare occasions), and batsmen did not wear protective pads, as they do nowadays. As the game changed, so it was found that a differently shaped bat was better. The bat which is generally recognised as the oldest Bat still in existence is dated 1729 and is on display in the Sandham Room at the Oval in London.
These bats are said by most to have a negligible improving effect upon a given innings, but their main purpose is to increase the comfort and confidence of the batsman and to promote the quality and range of bats from their manufacturer. The Australian cricketer Dennis Lillee attempted to use an aluminium metal bat, but any improvement upon the traditional willow could not compensate for the noise it made when it impacted upon the ball. The rules of cricket as of 2008 stipulate that the blade of a bat must be made solely of wood. More recently than Dennis Lillee, Ricky Ponting used a bat (the Kookaburra kahuna icon) with a carbon composite 'meat' (the large protruding area of wood out the back face) but the bat was altered by Kookaburra in conjunction with the ICC's demand.
In the film Shaun of the Dead, the hero Shaun uses a cricket bat as a weapon against the undead.