WITH the sound of leather on willow now resounding around Ryedale with the start of the cricket season, ace bat-maker Nick Nixon is celebrating after seeing one of his bats used to put a new record in the Wisdens cricket “bible”.

Aspiring player Oliver Hardaker, 18, smashed what is believed to be a one-day world record unbeaten 329 off 144 balls for his team Horsforth, near Leeds, at the picturesque Dales beauty spot of Grassington, against Upper Wharfedale.

Nick has been making bats for 20 years at his workshop, The Old Smithy, in Spital Street, Malton.

He said: “Oliver made a staggering achievement scoring so many runs in just 40 overs, and I was delighted he was using one of my bats.”

It started, Nick said, when he was playing for Nawton Grange – “I talk a lot about the game, better than I played” – and began repairing bats for friends.

Eventually he decideded to “take the plunge” and start his own business making bats, and today is one of only a handful of traditional hand-made bat makers in the country.

“Every bat is different,” said Nick. “There’s no substitute for a handmade bat made from top quality willow.”

His bats have been used by cricketers from enthusiastic schoolboys to test cricketers. Willow, he says, is the traditional wood for bats because it is light, very fibrous and can be mechanically hardened.

Today, while interest in cricket is on the increase, about 80 per cent of the world’s bats are made in India.

“But it’s a tradition I am determined to keep alive in Yorkshire,” added Nick.