Michael Rudling takes a look at the undulating career of Reece Topley, who was named in the England ODI squad for their three-match series against Ireland after four years in the wilderness.
As a 6”7 left-armer with good pace and a vicious yorker, Reece Topley ticks all the white-ball speed-demon boxes. But woeful injury luck has kept him away from England action since 2016. Now he’s in England’s 14-man-squad for the upcoming ODI series against Ireland; a career that looked it could be over before the age of 25 is back on track.
The injuries started for Topley as a 15-year-old net bowler: his hero, Kevin Pietersen drilled a ball into the side of his head. Topley needed stitches and a signed bat from KP to recover, but was soon making headlines for more positive reasons. He took five-wicket hauls in each of his first two Championship games for Essex in 2011. With his father Don having played for the storied club, the sight of Topley on the scorecard was already familiar. The younger Topley then lit up the 2012 U19 World Cup with 19 wickets. Injuries continued to slow his career though, and despite careful management from Essex, back stress fractures plagued his time there.
On the books at Essex since the age of nine, Topley moved to Hampshire in 2015. But a broken hand, two more stress fractures and a shoulder problem requiring surgery meant that Topley played little cricket in his time at the Ageas Bowl. A 40-millimetre pin in his back and a move to Sussex would prove important steps for Topley in the 2018/19 winter.
Don’t call it a comeback
Topley’s ODI career so far is impressive despite its brevity: The left-armer took 3-26 in his first appearance away from home as England lost to Pakistan in Dubai. Topley ended up with six wickets in the series at an economy of just 4.40 as England won 3-1. He continued to impress in South Africa, topping the wicket tables with 10 scalps in the five-match ODI series. His career-best figures of 4-51 also came in this series.
He took 17 wickets for Sussex in the T20 Blast in 2019, including three in four balls to beat Hampshire. Topley also showed his class with the red ball, taking 4-58 in just his second Championship game back after a two-year absence from the format.
What next for Reece Topley?
Again showing ambition to win trophies, Topley swapped Hove for The Oval at the end of 2019, penning a white-ball deal with Surrey. The Oval Invincibles then picked him up in the inaugural draft of The Hundred.
He’s packed a lot into his career, but Topley is still only 26. Economical displays in each of the intra-squad warm-up games at the Ageas Bowl (he took 1-9 and 2-26 against potent batting line-ups) suggest that he could be set for a return to international cricket. With two T20 World Cups on the horizon, he may have timed his return perfectly.
The surgical pin in Topley’s back means stress fractures should be a thing of the past. His main obstacle will be out-performing England’s other left-arm quicks, who are David Willey in this series, and perhaps Sam Curran later down the line.