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Topley signs white-ball Hampshire contract

Reece Topley at the Hampshire photocall Getty Images

Reece Topley has become the latest English player to concentrate on a future in limited-overs cricket.

Topley, who was 24 last week and has played 10 ODIs and six T20Is for England, has signed a new contract with Hampshire which will see him play white-ball cricket only in 2018.

Topley's decision follows those of Alex Hales and Adil Rashid to concentrate on limited-overs cricket. Unlike them, however, Topley's decision was largely made for him by persistent injury troubles that have threatened to curtail his career in its infancy.

In particular, he has been plagued by a succession of stress fractures that have limited him to five first-class games since the start of the 2015 season. He has claimed just two first-class wickets since joining Hampshire ahead of the 2016 season.

While Topley retains Test ambitions - he has always said he wanted to be the first left-arm seamer to claim 100 Test wickets for England - he has accepted that, for now at least, his body is unable to withstand the demands of first-class cricket. And, with a World Cup round the corner, he will hope that a spell of sustained fitness could result in an England recall.

His last international appearance came in March 2016 during the World T20, but he hopes that, if he is able to build up the number of overs he can bowl without the demands of red-ball cricket, he might eventually be able to return to the first-class game.

"It has been a frustrating time for me as a young bowler," Topley said. "It is hoped that this proposal will assist me by preventing further injury as my body matures. Going forward, I do hope to return to red-ball cricket and still harbour ambitions of being the first left-arm fast bowler to take 100 Test wickets for England but that remains a long-term goal."

"The short-term goal is simply to return to performing for Hampshire and only then perhaps to try and resurrect playing for England where I am still ambitious to add to my 16 caps. I would like to thank Hampshire for their understanding and continued support and cannot wait for the coming season."

Topley is unlikely to be the last of the current crop of players to make such a choice. Increasingly the risk-reward ratio is pushing seam bowlers, in particular, into specialising in limited-overs cricket.

Another left-arm fast bowler - Tymal Mills - has already gone down the same path due to persistent injury problems and, while the likes of Mark Wood and Liam Plunkett (both of whom are currently sidelined by injury) have always insisted they want to play Test cricket, the temptation for them to reduce their overs and, as a consequence their exposure to risk, remains.

While the England management will be disappointed for Topley and would dearly like to find a left-arm seamer to add variation to their Test attack, they have long-since been persuaded by the benefits of players specialising in formats. Indeed, it is thought the England medical team were fully supportive of this decision.

"Reece's attitude to his rehab and recovery has been outstanding and he deserves for things to go his way this year," said Hampshire's director of cricket, Giles White.

"Reece's intentions for red-ball cricket are clear, and the longer-form of the game is still something that is important to him in the future - this move is something that ourselves, Reece and the ECB feel is the best route to take this season, for him to be able to achieve his long-term goals at both domestic and international level."