Pakistan v England 2015-16 November 22, 2015

Topley soaking up his rapid rise

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WATCH - Reece Topley claims his maiden international wicket

At the age of 15, a net session sent Reece Topley to hospital when he was struck on the side of the head by a Kevin Pietersen drive while bowling to England at Loughborough. As a 21-year-old, another net session with the national side went so well that it has propelled him to within touching distance of a place in the World T20 squad.

It was during the one-day series against New Zealand when Topley was asked to come down as a net bowler. He so impressed Paul Farbrace, who was still looking after the team day-to-day before Trevor Bayliss arrived, and captain Eoin Morgan that he was named in the T20 squad for the New Zealand match at Old Trafford.

He did not make the XI that day, but did debut against Australia where he showcased his nerve to help close out a tight victory at Cardiff. His ODI debut followed at Old Trafford and he has recently featured in all four matches against Pakistan, helping England to a 3-1 series victory by taking six wickets and with an economy rate of 4.40.

It has all taken Topley a little by surprise. In 2014 he missed most of the season with a stress fracture of his back having put too much strain on his frame as a 19-year-old when he burst on the scene the previous summer - following an outstanding Under-19 World Cup in Australia where he was the leading wicket-taker - and was then called up for England Lions. Now, the forthcoming three T20s against Pakistan are a chance for him to further push his claims for a spot in the 15-man squad for the World T20 in India next March.

"Last year I was on the sidelines with a stress fracture so if I was able to get into the World T20 squad, a year ago I wouldn't have said that would be a possibility," he said. "Now playing in this series, everyone in the squad has an eye on the World T20. We are all fighting for places, it's healthy competition.

"You want people earning the right to be on the flight and from a team perspective it will be a good chance to gauge ourselves - three matches in a row will measure where we are, it can be hard having a Test series, a one-day series and a one-off T20 so this is a good time to relish that opportunity."

Topley's first attempt to return from his stress fracture at the start of the 2015 season had to be aborted when the injury re-emerged and on his second comeback he was carefully used by Essex. He played just two Championship matches last season but Topley, who has since completed a move to Hampshire, insists he is now completely recovered.

"I played a full summer when I was 19, think I only missed two or three games, and I bowled a lot of overs then I came away with the Lions. As a 19-year-old when your country comes calling there was no way I was turning that down, so a bit naively I went down that route although I was told I didn't have to go on it.

"It was the straw which broke the camel's back, well it broke my back not the camel's, and led to the stress fracture. I spent six months out of the game, came back early season for Essex and probably did a bit too much too early then it went again and it led to a label of me being injury-prone which I think is a bit unfair."

And while he is having "the time of his life" being part of England's limited-overs set-up he is eager not to be pigeon-holed purely as a one-day and T20 cricketer.

"I started played for Essex in red-ball cricket but then it just happened that I was playing a lot more white-ball cricket with the U-19s and they my white-ball skills took off," he said. "I felt I learned quite quickly, it overtook my red-ball ability, but I have a massive passion for first-class cricket. It would be an absolute demon hanging over me if I was labelled a white-ball cricket because I'm not."

England will prepare for the T20 series with a warm-up match against a UAE XI in Abu Dhabi on Monday before the first of the three internationals takes place in Dubai on Thursday.

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • J. on November 23, 2015, 23:03 GMT

    @JG2704 Yes, I know. Cricinfo changed the picture without the courtesy of acknowledging the fact, making my comment look stupid. Would be nice to get an ackn owledgement. The original picture was the one they *still* have on the cover page.

  • John on November 23, 2015, 20:59 GMT

    @NB733 ON NOVEMBER 23, 2015, 17:11 GMT - It's a difficult one re Lyth. It doesn't appear he showed too much form since he was dropped and I'm wondering how his confidence is. I think the feeling with Compton is that even if he doesn't score loads of runs he'll hang around and help blunt the SA attack. Negative but I don't feel anyone has been screaming out for selection. Also Cook has the best opening partnership ave with Nick from recent years. Re Moeen - I didn't mind trying it but it could have been aborted earlier. Aside from technical issues - and he has shown in the past that he can play a long inns vs SL in his 2nd game - he has gone from being seen as the free playing number 8 straight into the responsibility of opening and that often not long after bowling.

  • John on November 23, 2015, 17:20 GMT

    I see Plunkett is playing today so I guess there was no fallout. Maybe they're just not very good?

  • Nathan on November 23, 2015, 17:11 GMT

    Agreed on Patel, utterly pointless him being there. Hildreth a good shout, and definitely a better bet than Compton for my money. I would have also given Lyth the UAE tour to see if he was capable, Moeen was never going to be a success at this level as an opener

  • John on November 23, 2015, 16:12 GMT

    @NB733 - PS I think the worst selection is Patel. They were loathed to select him years ago (when he showed some CC form) because of fitness issues but now he shows nothing in the CC or for England in the UAE or on previous SC tours and he's picked for SA

  • John on November 23, 2015, 16:08 GMT

    @NB733 - Re Topley - People say he has no pace or movement which means that his other attributes must be outstanding to do what he did last year. Your initial post was bemoaning the fact that Topley has been chosen in front of the 2 Yorkies. If he was chosen in front of them for the test squad that would be a different kettle. I like Plunkett and Brooks (although didn't realise Brooks was that old - not that age matters to me). I have a feeling something went on re Plunkett and Eng. They had a nice 4 man seam attack for the 1st 2 tests which worked well as a unit so the obvious thing to do IMO when Wood was injured was to keep the formation. And by and large I echo your sentiments re selection and I'm frustrated that the leading runscorer in last season's CC div 1 wasn't even mentioned as a possible for either tour and our best white ball bowler is now deemed surplus to requirements and doesn't get mentioned by the media. But I wouldn't pick a LF specialist for SFs and vice versa

  • Nathan on November 23, 2015, 13:05 GMT

    JG I'm sure your calculations are correct, and take your point re: formats but if we're talking about who is a good bowler or not or who you would rather face out of those options if you are an international standard batsman I think Topley would top that list. He bowls low 80's at best, with Plunkett topping 90mph regularly and Brooks swinging the ball both ways at high 80's. It's been said a lot of times that low medium pace swing bowlers do well at county level, which is why Rushworth is so successful but when you are talking quality at a higher level rather than stats, Brooks and Plunkett are way ahead. I think Footitt is an interesting selection for SA, but he hasn't bowled to any real class yet so don't know how good he is. Would be nice to hear your opinion on him, Jordan and Woakes if you think they are the best options for England?

  • Clad on November 23, 2015, 12:49 GMT

    Why so many criticisms in the comments about a bowler that's only 21...?! I don't get it?! This guy has only played a few internationals so far so it's all a new experience - give him a chance!!! These people were probably saying the same about players like Stuart Broad and Joe Root after there first couple of games. Personally I think what we've seen so far is pretty good anyway - certainly got potential to go far.

  • Hrishikesh on November 23, 2015, 12:29 GMT

    Seemed a really good prospect during the u19 days. Remember him bowling above 140 with steep bounce. But now it's mostly 130 with a bunch of slower balls.

  • John on November 23, 2015, 11:26 GMT

    @NB733 - Let's not get the formats mixed up here. Career LIST A comparisons to Topley - Brooks is 0.5 better re ER but 10 worse ave and 15 worse SR. Plunkett 7 worse ave and SR and a slightly worse ER. Last season Topley took significantly more LIST A wickets than the 2 Yorkies between them and ave 6 better than Plunkett and 13 better than Brooks , SR 6 better than Plunkett and 16 better than Brooks and with a slightly better ER than both. And there's no superior division in LIST A

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