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Feature

Reece Topley savours special Lord's day, but World Cup remains the focus

Record-breaking performance 'makes it worthwhile' after years of pain

Reece Topley ended with career-best figures of 6 for 24  •  Getty Images

Reece Topley ended with career-best figures of 6 for 24  •  Getty Images

Even after taking the best ODI figures by an Englishman to help his country defeat India at Lord's on Thursday, Reece Topley is not taking anything for granted.
Understandably so, perhaps. The series will be up for grabs in Sunday's third ODI after Topley's six for 24 helped defend England's total of 246 by 100 runs. The reaction from Rohit Sharma's side will be fierce, and the winner-takes-all nature of the fixture is exactly the sort of situation in which players' temperaments will be scrutinised ahead of the T20 World Cup, and next year's 50-over edition.
"I've got an end goal of 'I want to be at the World Cup'," said Topley, matter-of-factly. "I want to contribute and be in the team. It's taking each day as it comes and trying to get better to attain that goal."
Then there's Topley's injury history, the kind which would give anyone reason not to take the good days for granted. Among the two stress fractures of his back were an array of other related and unrelated ailments that not only curtailed his career from 2016, but suggested days like Lord's were beyond him.
And yet at the same time, the three years in the wilderness, consumed by feelings of anxiety and irrelevance, make these moments much more special. Even with such laser focus on what's ahead, immediately in this India series, then South Africa, Pakistan and onto Australia for the T20 World Cup, he can afford a quick step back to take it all in.
"It's pretty crazy," Topley said of his six-wicket haul, which were also the best figures by any ODI bowler at Lord's. "It's not something that you necessarily set out at the start of your career to do. If anything, from a professional view on things, it's amazing they come to fruition on days like this.
"These are the moments that make it all sort of worthwhile. I don't know - it's just nice to be playing for England and obviously you want to perform for your country whenever you get the opportunity. You want to take opportunities like this. But at the end of the day, we're in a series and it's 1-1. I enjoy it, I ride the wave, but there's everything to play for at the weekend."
The last seven days have showcased Topley's qualities with the white ball. The previous Sunday saw him emerge with three for 22 from England's consolation win against India in the final T20I at Trent Bridge, comfortably the most economical bowler in a match where 413 runs were scored.
It speaks of an all-round healthiness to the 28-year-old. He is no longer focussed on getting his body right and thus can focus on honing his skills, such as his slower deliveries and full-pace deliveries which leap at the bat thanks to his imposing frame. In turn, he is coming into matches full of belief reinforced by a philosophical stance that he has done everything in his power to succeed, regardless of whether he fills up the wickets column or not.
"I came into the game [at Lord's] and left no stone unturned, so there was almost no reason why I shouldn't have success. That's the way I view it. I'll do the same for the weekend, but I might not necessarily get the rewards, it might be someone else's day. But everything I've done in my processes I'm happy with.
"I wouldn't say it's coming out any better or worse. Like I said, it's the processes I've always believed in and things like that. You can be in form but not taking wickets.
"I think I bowled well but then with cricket there are so many variables. You don't necessarily control the grass on the wicket or what shot the batsman's going to play, so you can only control what you do as a bowler. And it almost hedges things in your favour.
"It's not about 'I'm going to get five today'. It's like, at the top of my mark each ball, it's how I'm getting in the game. But then you need a lot of things at the other end to go your way."
At any other time, Topley might have to roll his sleeves up and fight with the other left-arm seamers at England's disposal for a spot in the squads. But this summer has seen the limited overs side under Matthew Mott take a somewhat refreshing stance in regarding all quicks the same.
In the six white-ball matches Topley has played this summer, he has bowled alongside at least one other left-armer. On Thursday, his opening spell with David Willey restricted India to just 28 in the first 10 overs, with four maidens between them. Topley emerged from the Powerplay with two for 17 from his five, while Willey was unlucky to register no dismissals having bowled so miserly with just six scored off his five. The 32-year-old eventually finished with one for 27 from nine overs to go with a handy 41 that helped England reach 246 in the first innings.
For Topley, however, the change of tack, if it is overdue more broadly, is merely in line with how he has regarded that conversation to do with himself.
"I've always had that question quite a lot to be honest," he said, when asked of the shift from lefties being "a useful option to have". "The biggest thing to answer it is to say you still need to be a quality bowler, regardless of left- or right-arm. I don't think positions in teams are given away like that. If you are left-arm, you've still got to be very good at the craft."
Sunday is another opportunity for Topley to show just how good at it he is.

Vithushan Ehantharajah is an associate editor for ESPNcricinfo