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Reece Topley bears more than a passing resemblance to a young Steven Finn, and is making waves for England at the Under-19 World Cup
August 18, 2012
Series/Tournaments: ICC Under-19 World Cup
There's a shattered stump lying somewhere in Reece Topley's room in Townsville, a keepsake from his first wicket at the Under-19 World Cup: Australia's Jimmy Peirson bowled by a full and fast delivery. He has another souvenir too, a Man-of-the-Match award for his performance against Ireland.
Topley has been England's most successful bowler during the group stage: seven wickets in 16.5 overs in three games, at an average of 7.12 and economy rate of 2.19. His 6ft 7 frame is reminiscent of another England fast bowler at the 2008 Under-19 World Cup in Malaysia, someone who took four wickets against South Africa in the ongoing Test at Lord's: Steven Finn. Topley, however, appears to be physically stronger than Finn was at this age.
Though he has the muscle to intimidate batsmen, at an age when some boys are not as well built and powerful as others and such characteristics matter more, and has played on pitches that offer pace and bounce, Topley has not got carried away and forgotten what works best for him. He's tried to pitch on a good to full length and, at around 140 kph, the batsmen have been wary.
"I try and bowl most balls with every aspect of dismissal possible," Topley said. "So if you bowl short, it's not going to hit the stumps, you're not going to get lbw or bowled. So I just try and bowl top of off, try and hit the stumps and swing it, giving myself every chance of getting a wicket.
"I've been taking wickets up front in my first spell and also when I've come back towards the end. I've kept it quite tight with the runs. So that's pleasing from all aspects of my bowling."
Tim Boon, the England coach, is pleased with how Topley has developed over the last year. "He's learned to bowl with the white ball, he's a very skillful bowler now. Reece has that knack of swinging it into the right-hander," Boon said. "A much improved bowler from last year and he'll be one of the better left-armers in the tournament."
Over the last year, Topley has had opportunities that most bowlers his age don't: to play different forms of domestic cricket and face international opposition too. And he's taken all of them. Topley played 10 first-class matches for Essex and took 37 wickets, and seven wickets in four domestic one-dayers. In the Friends Life t20, he's the second highest wicket-taker at present, with 17 in nine matches. He believes the first-team experience at Essex helped him massively.
"It's a whole different dimension of cricket, whereas when you're younger it's all about flair and things like that," Topley said about county cricket. "It's more mental as you get older, working batsmen out and thinking about what ball you're going to bowl and what line, fields you've set and things like that. It's really opened up a whole another dimension to cricket and it's quite exciting being involved in it all. So I'd say I've benefitted a lot from having that experience."
Topley also had the fortune of Essex playing against the touring Sri Lankans in 2011 and Australians in 2012. He took six wickets in a three-day match against the Sri Lankans, including that of Kumar Sangakkara, and conceded less than two runs per over. Against the Australians, Topley took 4 for 46 in a one-day game, dismissing Shane Watson and George Bailey.
"That was massive, you got an insight into what it was like to play against ... I mean in county cricket you get good players and you get your normal county players after that," Topley said, "but playing against these line-ups, every batsman coming out was a big name and a great player. The margin for error was very small and I was just happy that I did well."
|"I've done a lot of work with my dad, he's sort of been working with me since I first played cricket and still works with me to this day. He's seen me grow up and he knows my action inside out. Having him around [at this World Cup] is a massive help. He can help me tactically and technically with my bowling." Reece Topley on the influence of his father, Don|
Topley's success in Townsville has been watched by his father Don, a fast bowler who played 120 first-class matches for Essex between 1985 and 1994. He's been coached by his father over the years and even goes to the Royal Hospital School in Suffolk, where his father is the master of cricket. "I've done a lot of work with my dad, he's sort of been working with me since I first played cricket and still works with me to this day," Topley said. "He's seen me grow up and he knows my action inside out. Having him around [at this World Cup] is a massive help. He can help me tactically and technically with my bowling."
Topley's a left-arm quick, a variation the senior England team's formidable fast-bowling group doesn't have, and his development has not been unnoticed by people above the Under-19 level. He, however, is not looking that far ahead yet. "It's quite pleasing to get all these people linking you with like England coaches etc, but I'll take the game as it comes. Just keep putting in the performances and those sort of chances will come."
At the moment Topley's focus is on the quarter-final against South Africa at Tony Ireland Stadium on Sunday, as England continue to challenge for the Under-19 World Cup, the grandest of all souvenirs to take home from Australia.
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