Young cricketer KO'd by KP

A YOUNG Suffolk cricketer was nursing a sore head yesterday after being hit by a booming drive from England star Kevin Pietersen.

Nick Garnham

A YOUNG Suffolk cricketer was nursing a sore head yesterday after being hit by a booming drive from England star Kevin Pietersen.

Reece Topley, who attends Royal Hospital School (RHS) at Holbrook, near Ipswich, had been invited to bowl at England's batsmen in preparation for the forthcoming ICC World Twenty20 competition that starts in this country on Friday.

The 15-year-old was bowling to Pietersen in the nets at Loughborough University, home to the ECB Academy, when he advanced down the wicket and smashed the ball on the full straight back towards Topley, striking him on his left ear.

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His father, former Essex cricketer Don Topley, drove Reece, who was in “shock and pain” after the incident, to Leicester Royal Infirmary where he had stitches inserted and underwent tests. He is due undergo further tests today.

Don Topley, who is director of sporting development and master in charge of cricket at RHS, said doctors were concerned that there may be some potential internal damage.

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Reece was due to sit two Year 10 internal exams in maths and English at RHS last night which the school had agreed he could miss.

Reece said: “Despite suffering the injury I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. It was very challenging as they hit the ball so hard. Eoin Morgan was the hardest to bowl at because he wanders around the crease and also the different shots he plays.

“I found bowling at Kevin Pietersen there is a very small margin of error. You have to be careful not to give him too much width, or bowl too straight because he also wanders across his crease. You have to be very aware of how he moves and try to counter it when you bowl at him.”

Reece, who “dismissed” Morgan, Robert Key and Adil Rashid in the nets and spent a “superb” half an hour with Essex wicket-keeper James Foster, added that Pietersen had promised to give him his bat as a memento.

The 6ft 6in bowler stayed at Loughborough University on Saturday night, before bowling at the England batsmen both on Sunday and again yesterday.

He was one of eight bowlers - the others were all aged between 17 and 19 - from all over the country who bowled at the England batsmen under the supervision of Kevin Shine, the England fast bowling coach.

Proud dad Don said: “It has been a fantastic opportunity for Reece, at the tender age of 15, to witness some great players in the flesh and to bowl at them.

“It has been great for him to learn how to think on his feet, whether to bowl at the stumps or at the batsman, to try to prevent them from hitting in the areas that they want to hit the ball.”

He said that Reece was specifically requested to attend by the ECB to bowl at the England players because he is a left-arm swing bowler. Ryan Sidebottom is the only bowler of that type in the England squad.

His father said: “There are a number of them who will be playing in the tournament - Australia have Nathan Bracken and Mitchell Johnson - and India and Pakistan also have two each. Left arm swing bowlers are particularly effective in Twenty20 cricket because of the different angles they offer.”

The invitation came just a few weeks after Reece bowled at the West Indies touring side in the nets at Chelmsford prior to their match against Essex.

It is not the first time that Reece's enthusiasm to field the ball off his own bowling in the nets has led to him suffering an injury. A year ago he broke the little finger on his bowling hand when trying to catch a powerful drive by Essex and England opener Alastair Cook during filming at Chelmsford for a special television programme.

Although it is not known how long it will be before he can play again, Reece's latest injury is likely to mean he will miss some important matches which he has coming up.

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