Reece Topley’s fast track to England colours this year is a far cry from his painful teenage experiences bowling to the best batsmen in the country.
Topley’s progress has been seamless since joining England’s limited-overs specialists initially in practice last summer, and the 21-year-old bowler’s is on course for the ICC World Twenty20 in March.
It is all a jarring contrast from his unfortunate first encounters with England’s best players as first Alastair Cook and then Kevin Pietersen left the young net bowler needing hospital treatment.
A Cook straight-drive broke his finger in one practice session. Then, still only 15 but a towering talent already, he was hit on the head when Pietersen smashed another back at him shortly before England’s unsuccessful 2009 World Twenty20 campaign on home soil.
He is able to apply a little humour as he looks back on those historical friendly-fire injuries, courtesy of Cook and Pietersen.
“It might suggest I could work on my caught-and-bowled handiwork,” he said.
“I’ve had my fair share of injuries that involved superstars.”
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There have been no such blips in recent times, and certainly not since Topley made his international debut less than three months ago. He took three for 26 in England’s opening one-day international defeat against Pakistan in Abu Dhabi, and another three wickets as the tourists hit back to take the series 3-1.
As England turn their attentions to three Twenty20s to end their tour of the UAE, Topley is encouraged by the welcoming regime under coach Trevor Bayliss and captain Eoin Morgan. “The dressing-room environment is second to none,” he said.
“It’s a learning culture. We know we’re not the finished article.
“There’s still a way for us to go, and it is amazing what we could achieve if we fulfil our potential.”
England will face the UAE in their Twenty20 warm-up match at Zayed Cricket Stadium today, with Topley likely to lead the attack again.
As for the series against Pakistan, which begins on Thursday in Dubai, he has the chance not just to further his own World Twenty20 ambitions.
“We all know the job’s not done yet, we won’t settle for just one series win,” Topley said.
“Being a 21 year old, this is the time of my life. I feel very proud and privileged to be where I am, and I’ve been surprised to play the way I have.
“Last year I had a stress fracture and spent a long time on the sidelines, so to get in the World Twenty20 squad would be amazing.”
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