The Newbery Excalibur: Cricket's First Shoulderless Bat

Few cricket bats have so radically deviated from the traditional mould as the Newbery Excalibur. Handcrafted from English willow, shorn of shoulders, yet solid and weighty at the top, it was a one-off that grew to international prominence in the hands of Lance Cairns.

Lance Cairns, Newbery Cricket Excalibur

Cairns produced two infamous innings with the Excalibur that resonate through the annals of cricket history. For the first, at the Hutt Recreation Ground near Wellington in 1979-80 Cairns hit 110 from No. 9 (Evan Gray: 4-0-50-1) to turn the score of 48 for 8 into 173 all out.

The second occurred three years later in a one-day international at Melbourne. Cairns launched into a 21-ball half-century - the fastest in ODI history at the time - including six sixes in 10 balls, one of which he completed with one hand. 

ESPN cricinfo caught up with John Guy, the man who came up with the original idea for the Excalibur and a fine cricketer in his own right, for a recent feature in which he discussed the origins of the bat.

John was a left-hand batsman and played 12 Tests for New Zealand in the 1950s and '60s. He played first-class cricket until the age of 38 before moving into the bat industry working for Newbery.

From the article on ESPN cricinfo:

The design originated in England, where Guy observed a Newbery bat with what he calls a "dry knot" - a darker, weaker section of the willow - in its shoulder. Guy wondered out loud to John Newbery, the master bat maker, whether the bat would split if a ball hit that dry knot. Yes, Newbery said, the shoulder would fly right off. But what could they do about it?

"I said, 'What if we shave it?' So that's what we did," Guy says. "We shaved the shoulder down and I said, 'I think that's a good idea for a bat'. Newbery said: 'What would you call it? It's got to be something like a sword'. I said it felt like a heavy wand. He said, 'What about King Arthur, Excalibur'. I said, 'You've hit the nail on the head, it sounds great'."

The rest is history, as the Excalibur forged its own mark in the minds of professionals and club cricketers alike.

The spirit of the Excalibur has continued to inform the design of Newbery bats to this day, with the TT being the most recent example.

To read the full article, head over to ESPN cricinfo.

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