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David Willey makes early Blast return while regulation change comes up trumps

News from around the grounds on Ed Pollock's contract, Gareth Delany's shirt number and Danny Lamb's head

Matt Roller
Matt Roller
David Willey was England's player of the series against Ireland  •  Getty Images

David Willey was England's player of the series against Ireland  •  Getty Images

Yorkshire announced at the start of the Blast that Tom Kohler-Cadmore would lead the side for most of the group stage, with their new T20 captain David Willey set to be "unavailable for as many as the opening eight games" due to international duty. Perhaps understandably, they had assumed that after his Player-of-the-Series efforts against Ireland earlier in the summer, Willey was a certainty to be involved in England's white-ball series against Australia.
In fact, Willey returns to the squad as captain for Friday night's trip to Durham, after telling Eoin Morgan he saw little value in him remaining with the T20I squad as a reserve. "Dave has been one of our best Powerplay bowlers," Morgan said. "He was supposed to be in this squad as a reserve but chose to go back and play for Yorkshire. We agreed it was better that he's playing when he's bowling so well."
Willey returns to a strong Yorkshire squad that have been boosted by the availability of Joe Root, who resumed his stop-start T20 career with a point to prove and has made half-centuries in both of his innings in the tournament to date.
If Yorkshire will be delighted with England's decision to let Willey play in the Blast, there may be a few raised eyebrows across the Pennines: Lancashire have had to cope without Liam Livingstone and Saqib Mahmood for the whole tournament so far, and neither is likely to feature in international cricket again this summer after being named as reserves for the Australia T20Is - and the ODIs too, in Mahmood's case.
Changes to playing regulations are rarely high on the news agenda, but the ECB's decision to tinker with the tried-and-tested formula of penalty runs for slow over-rates in the Blasts over the winter appears to be paying off.
After Sussex's final-over target away at Gloucestershire last year was slashed from 14 to 8 due to a six-run penalty, the decision was made to force teams to bring an extra fielder inside the 30-yard circle for every over they were behind rather than docking them runs, with the logic that in a league where games tend to be finished within three hours, a slightly later finish was preferable to results being decided on a technicality
Middlesex's tie against Kent would have been a foregone conclusion ahead of the final over at Lord's when they missed the cut-off time; instead, captain Steven Finn was told to bring an extra man into the ring, and Tom Helm managed to secure an unlikely point. No doubt Kent would have preferred the bonus runs, but there is no doubt which solution was better for the neutral.
Somerset were beneficiaries, too, in their televised game against Worcestershire, taking 40 runs off the final two overs with only four men allowed outside the ring due to a slow over-rate.
Babar Azam made his return to the club in that game, making a 35-ball 42, but a printing error meant that he inadvertently took to the field wearing the logo of Somerset's official beer on the back of his shirt above his name. Somerset confirmed that they will try to print a shirt without the logo in time for Friday night's game against Birmingham Bears.
Ed Pollock has been offered a one-year extension by Warwickshire, with his contract up at the end of the season. Leicestershire are said to be interested in signing Pollock, though Paul Nixon played down the move when asked by ESPNcricinfo this week, saying the club had to focus on players who would be available in all formats.
Pollock, whose career strike rate of 170.86 is the highest of any T20 batsman in the world (min. 20 innings/500 runs) has often given the impression of being unstoppable if he could only get started, furthered by an innings against Gloucestershire earlier this week of that read .1.1..6.61.6W in the scorebook.
Pollock's situation may be a cautionary tale for young white-ball players winning Hundred contracts: given his lack of red-ball prowess and the Hundred's clash with the Royal London Cup, he is only likely to be a regular in the Blast for whichever county he ends up at next year.
Improved county streams continue to be hugely popular, with several clubs reporting hundreds of thousands of viewers at various stages of Blast games.
While ESPNcricinfo understands that there are no plans for Sky to broadcast the Bob Willis Trophy final at Lord's - which will come as a disappointment to many supporters - there are plans being drawn up for a high-quality streaming offering instead, which is likely to be available free of charge around the world.
The Irish contingent in this year's Blast have flown out of the blocks, with Gareth Delany and Andy Balbirnie registering their first half-centuries in the tournament this week after Paul Stirling had done the same for Northants on debut.
Delany, whose unique, high-handed backlift has proven particularly effective when attacking against spinners, has continued to wear the No. 64 shirt he sports in international cricket for Leicestershire, a choice he explained earlier this year to Cricket Ireland's Green Ball Extra podcast. "It's a bit cringe," he said. "I didn't really mind what the number was so I kind of left it to my mum to decide. She said that I like to hit fours and sixes, so why not go with that?"
Leave county cricketers with too much time of their hands and there is no limit to what they will do to entertain themselves. That much has been proven this week by the emergence of two Twitter accounts.
The first, @moustache_ben, celebrates Somerset allrounder Ben Green's facial hair - specifically his top lip, which has brought to mind Don Mattingly's cameo appearance in The Simpsons.
The second is @balanced_s, which has posted a series of pictures of various items resting on Lancashire allrounder Danny Lamb's shaven head. In addition to this column's favourite, above, Lamb has had a pizza box, a beer bottle and a bat balanced on his bonce, while the account has even started taking requests.

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets at @mroller98