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Match Analysis

'PC pansies'? Not so. Headguards research is vital

ESPNcricinfo rounds up the highlights from the latest matches in the NatWest T20 Blast

David Hopps
David Hopps
Luke Fletcher is helped from the field after being struck by the ball, Warwickshire v Nottinghamshire, NatWest Blast, North Group, Edgbaston

Luke Fletcher is helped from the field at Edgbaston  •  Getty Images

BBC TMS commentator Charles Dagnall was derided as a "PC pansy" by a Twitter troll for suggesting, perfectly reasonably, that it was time to investigate the potential for protection for bowlers after the horrific injury suffered by Luke Fletcher at Edgbaston.
Fletcher is out for the season and feeling lucky to be alive after headbutting a ferocious straight drive from the Warwickshire batsman Sam Hain, fortunate to come away with nothing more than concussion and the chance to exercise the dry wit that makes him one of the most popular characters on the county circuit.
Dagnall, as a former county bowler - and one, dare it be suggested, of a method which occasionally invited a straight drive - need not lose sleep over the response of an armchair critic who has probably never bowled a burger at a beer glass and who, one wagers, is not about to volunteer for some throwdowns in a T20 net session.
Fortunately, at the National Cricket Performance Centre in Loughborough, efforts are already underway to assess expert advice and determine whether some sort of protection is possible which does not inhibit a bowler.
Research, though, is far from conclusive. Rugby Union is one sport which has found that not everybody supports the use of protective headguards. Dr Mike Loosemore, a consultant at the English Institute of Sport, specialises in head injuries and concussion and he has previously warned that headguards might be counter-productive by giving an illusion of safety.
Concussion results not from the blow itself, but the way the head - and the brain - swashes around after the blow. A strong neck offers some protection and Fletcher, a formidable figure looks as if he has one of the strongest necks in the business. No wonder he enquired after his blow about the health of the ball.


The Colonel has a new lease of life
The picture of Gloucestershire running out at Cheltenham College to play Twenty20, in front of a school pavilion modelled on a 19C Indian railway station, was a grand sight.
Few State schools have a cricket pavilion modelled on a railway station - unless you count the stations that disappeared in Dr Beeching's ill-advised rail network cuts in the 1960s.
But another picture caught the eye - although we shall desist from terming it a grand sight unless suitable liquid bribes are offered - that of Phil Mustard at the crease, looking in the best physical shape he has been in for years after his release by Durham and move to a new county.
An enterprising innings at the top of the order made a big contribution to Gloucestershire's first win of the season against Kent.
The life of a professional cricketer is not easy when your family is 250 miles away in the north east but The Colonel, now 34, who has also stood in as Championship captain for Gareth Roderick this season, wins nothing but praise from his director of cricket, Richard Dawson.
"He has brought something different to our changing room," Dawson said. "We have a lot of quiet players and he is a personality who adds a bit of spark. He has a straightforward approach to the game and that can be a really positive influence."


Wakely gets down with the fans
Northants haven't got the biggest staff in county cricket (merely the biggest team), but it was quite eye-catching to see their captain, Alex Wakely, briefly fulfil the role of assistant marketing manager after the NatWest Blast tie against Yorkshire was washed out at Wantage Road.
"Match abandoned. Anyone that has tickets, please send them to the club with your details. Refund or swap for another match is available," came the message on Wakely's Twitter feed, making excellent use of his modest 4,000 followers.
County captains with such a connection to their fan base deserve to be followed by half-a-million. Wakely, clearly a modern-day People's Champion, tweets from @AlexWakely1. He will be praying for no more rain so he does not have to delve ever more into the small print of Northants' ticket arrangements.
A good home atmosphere can make the difference over the season, as football clubs have known for ever and a day, and recognition is now dawning on county clubs as the NatWest Blast attendances continue to grow.


Wanted: a man with a degree
"The first I really knew about it, was when the penalty was given - I was pretty much in the dark," said stand-in captain Jade Dernbach about the 12-run penalty for a slow overrate that almost cost Surrey victory against Somerset at Kia Oval.
Dernbach made some valid points that consistency is needed if run penalties are to apply, and that includes controlling the pace of a batsman's walk out to the middle and the end-of-over discussions. It is not too hard to imagine a batting side deliberately slowing things down in the hope of some bonus runs at the back end of a chase.
Maintaining the pace of Twenty20, though, is imperative to keep the pace in a game that is much to the liking of the paying public.
Even the most experienced county captain needs a trusted assistant advising on the niceties of run rates and fielders inside the circle. Keith Fletcher, who was one of the shrewdest captains around during his long leadership at Essex, recognised that only too well when rain tables first made their way into the game.
Fletcher took one look at the sheets of rain tables and handed them over to a team-mate. "Here, you can do this," he said, "because you've got a degree."


Ryan Higgins part 2
The opening Twenty20 Vision column lauded the emergence of Ryan Higgins who claimed a tie for Middlesex against Gloucestershire at Cheltenham after they were looking down the barrel, with eight down and 64 needed off the last 26 deliveries.
Zimbabwean-born Higgins certainly does not mess about. 6-4-W was the sum of his latest innings as Middlesex survived a calamitous collapse to steal a one-wicket win in the Thames derby before before 27,200 at Lord's.
Higgins came in with 28 needed from 27 balls with five wickets left. He departed with the target cut to 18 from 24 balls with four wickets remaining. It is debatable whether that position represented an improvement, but Middlesex, under the New Zealand management team of coach Dan Vettori and captain Brendon McCullum, insist that they are committed to attacking cricket.
It will certainly bring excitement. It might even take them to Finals Day.

David Hopps is a general editor at ESPNcricinfo @davidkhopps