Don Topley: T20 cricket is a hot ticket, plus the issue of head injuries to bowlers

T20 cricket is all action! Picture: ANDY KEARNS

T20 cricket is all action! Picture: ANDY KEARNS - Credit: Photo by Andrew Kearns

Don Topley looks at the T20 Bash competition and the issue of bowlers suffering head injuries in his latest weekly cricket column.

The biff, bash, bosh of T20 cricket has returned with all 18 counties eyeing up Finals Day on Saturday September 2.

The NatWest T20 Blast is an extremely popular event and attracts a very different type of cricket supporter to that of Championship cricket.

Lord’s and The Oval can accommodate towards 30,000 spectators, whilst witnessing ‘local-derbies’ such as Essex v Surrey, Kent or Middlesex on a balmy summer’s evening is entertaining with a little more noise akin to football – and sadly, occasionally some boorish or even poor behaviour.

Chelmsford can only hold 6,500. Beckenham – Kent’s second ground – enjoyed just 5,500 spectators for their fixture against Essex last Sunday.

But the atmosphere is tremendous and exciting. The Cloudfm County Ground rocks on a T20 evening with some 35,000 pints of beer consumed, Essex can generate some 84% of their annual income from T20 matches alone.

When Essex go to the Oval for T20, there are always more men of Essex than Surrey in the crowd, with a high percentage of Essex commuters returning to Essex via the Oval.

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Middlesex hosted Surrey last night at a capacity Lord’s and that’s got to be the ‘hot ticket’ in town!

Surrey’s own enticing deal of ‘kids for a quid’ is excellent and ensures younger cricketers don’t miss out on the spectacle. Interestingly, Essex must look longingly at those larger crowds and wish the Olympic Stadium was available to hire.

It’s a conundrum for the smaller counties as they must make their cash and could probably sell-out again, with just adults and beer, but the cheaper priced kids are the future. Essex simply cannot afford to do ‘kids for a quid’.

Surrey defeated Essex on TV last Friday, whilst Kent sent Essex back over ‘the Bridge’ on Sunday with their tails between their legs. Essex’s first two T20s have ended in defeat and the County Championship leaders look a little different in T20. They are missing a couple of excellent T20 bowlers: Matt Quinn has been ruled out for the season with a recurrence of his back issue. Quinn is a highly rated T20 bowler where bowling is so very different to 50/50 and Championship cricket.

And for the first time this season Essex are missing the retired Graham Napier who was not only excellent with the new ball and skilled at the death, but would also be stored up the captain’s sleeve when a dynamic partnership needs to be broken.

The Essex batsmen need to make match-winning innings too as good quick 30s and 40s are not enough. Statistically, batsmen who make 70s and 80s in T20 will come out on the winning side.

Losing dashing opening batsman, Tamim Iqbal, after one game seems odd. There was speculation for a period of time that he would sign, but it was only announced he was on board during the first T20 against Surrey.

Within two days, he’s flown in, played one game at Beckenham, and within 36 hours, Essex agree to release him from his contract.

There was an allegation that Iqbal’s wife was the target of an attempted acid attack, but this has been denied by the player on social media. All very odd!

There is no need to panic after the three games in T20 as the first requirement is to get into the South Division top four and claim a quarter-final place. Then you are only one win away from Finals Day.

Meanwhile, I am so pleased to report that Nottinghamshire’s Luke Fletcher will make a full recovery after being badly hit on the head after he delivered the ball in a T20 – it could have been so very different.

I watched it live only to bring back worrying memories of my own son 7 years ago. Reece was invited to bowl at the England T20 nets.

Kevin Pietersen dashed down the wicket and smashed the white ball back at 15-year-old Reece who was badly hit in the ear, on his follow-through, just 14 yards away.

He was concussed and admitted into hospital overnight where he had nine stitches into his ear.

Bowling in T20 can only be described as sprinting towards a cannonball. We all know where batting and helmets have taken us from 30 years ago.

Perhaps soon bowlers may be wearing skull-caps or hockey masks?

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