Reece James William Topley
February 21, 1994, Ipswich, Suffolk
Right hand bat
Left arm fast medium
A left-arm seamer with a fearsome yorker but a chequered injury history, Reece Topley's career was in peril before his 25th birthday as he suffered a series of stress fractures that left him wondering whether he would ever be able to play again.
At a skyscraper height of 6ft 7ins, Topley has always towered above his team-mates. An early developer, he first hit the headlines in 2009 when, as a 15-year-old net bowler, his favourite player Kevin Pietersen drilled a drive into the side of his head. He needed stitches but Pietersen left him a signed bat as a more welcome memento.
It wasn't until 2011 that Topley started making his own headlines. As a gangly 17-year-old left-arm seamer with huge potential he took 14 wickets for Essex in his three opening Championship matches - including five-wicket hauls in each of his first two games against Kent and Middlesex. That season was interrupted as Topley had to return to Royal Hospital School in Suffolk to start revising for the summer exams. His father, the former Essex player Don, was his school teacher and cricket mentor so slacking in any department was not an option.
Topley seemed admirably unaffected by the early hype. At the Under-19 World Cup in Australia in 2012, he stood out as a professional in a boys' game: no one claimed more than his 19 wickets, which came at nine apiece, and Topley relished his status as a senior bowler in England's side. Further recognition - before he had even turned 19 - arrived with an England Lions call-up for the 2013 tour Down Under.
The ECB and Essex have been careful to manage his workload, the county rotating him with their other talented quicks. He was a key member of the team in 2013, taking more than 80 wickets in all formats to earn a place on England's Performance Programme trip to Australia. However, a back injury ruled him out of going to Sri Lanka with the Lions, a reminder of how young fast bowlers need protecting.
Topley had played for Essex representative sides since the age of nine, but immediately after his England debut in a T20I against Australia in 2015 he announced he was on his way, citing a lack of ambition. Instead, he headed for Hampshire, whose success in the limited-overs game was undeniable. He impressed in the white-ball series against Pakistan and South Africa in the 2015-16, and kept his spot for the World T20 in India despite a chastening outing against AB de Villiers in a T20I immediately before it. But he leaked runs in a high-scoring game against the same opposition in the tournament itself, and was left out for the rest of England's run to the final.
But injury struck again, this time in more freakish fashion, in his first season with Hampshire. He failed to bowl a ball after being ruled out for the season during his debut when his left hand was broken when he was hit by a bouncer while batting against Warwickshire's Boyd Rankin. Shoulder surgery followed in the close season and then he suffered another back stress fracture in August 2017 in a season in which he had managed only 112 overs in all competitions.
Topley signed a white-ball only deal in 2018 and won an England Lions call-up against India A as a show of faith, allowing him to show some neatly-timed form just ahead of the Royal London Cup final, but he was not selected, and soon needed a pin in his back after a fifth stress fracture. He signalled his wish to move on and was released in September.
Sussex took a gamble on him during the 2018-19 winter, allowing him to train and recover at Hove, and he recovered to take 17 wickets in their T20 campaign and play his first Championship games for two years at the end of the season. They were unsurprisingly keen to tie him to a new contract, but were gazumped by Surrey, who became his fourth county when he signed at the end of the season.
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