Cricket sensation Reece Topley goes from taking wickets to taking exams
IRONICALLY Reece Topley had to get an absence note to explain why he would be at school this week.
After sensationally taking the most first-class wickets in the opening few weeks of the new English cricket season, the 17-year-old then had to inform Essex that he would be unavailable for their LV County Championship Division Two match against Glamorgan this week due to the fact he had mock AS Level exams.
Sitting in the darkened school hall of the Royal Hospital School with a pen rather than a cricket ball in his much talked about left hand he knows that, out in the sunshine, bowlers up-and-down the land were overtaking his 17-wicket haul.
“It is a bit frustrating,” admitted the 6ft 7ins Ipswich-born teenager. “While I was sitting my business studies exam (yesterday) morning I must admit I did glance up at the clock around 11am and thought to myself ‘Essex will be going out about now’. It did feel a bit strange not being there, but I know my exams are important.”
Topley, who is also studying PE and sport, as well as media, sits another exam today. He’ll captain the RHS team on Saturday and will then be available for Essex’s Clydesdale Bank 40 encounter with Nottinghamshire on Sunday. His real AS Level exams will again disrupt his Essex availability later this summer, but the academic life can only impede this young man’s thirst for making a mess of the stumps for so long.
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It is not an exaggeration to say that Topley, with his rarest of weapons – a tall and fast left-arm bowling action which takes the ball into a right-handed batsman – is one of English cricket’s hottest prospects.
The England and Wales Cricket Board have known about him for years and used him to test England’s senior stars in training camps. At the age of 14 he clean bowled Alastair Cook at the Essex indoor school. Cook responded by breaking the bowler’s finger with a crunching drive the very next delivery. Now the two share a dressing room.
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The following year, at a training camp in Loughborough, the then 15-year-old required nine stitches to a wound just under his ear after getting in the way of a straight drive in the nets from none other than Kevin Pietersen.
Even so, no-one really expected him to make such a huge impact on the first-class scene so quickly in his first season.
After impressing on a pre-season tour of Barbados he took two wickets on his first-class debut against a Cambridge MCCU side. He then followed that up with a five-for against Kent – including the scalps of former England internationals Rob Key and Geraint Jones – and then another five-for against Middlesex at Lord’s.
“I couldn’t have dreamt it would go this well,” admitted Topley, who spends one week a month on the England Under-17s Development Programme and could feature in the Under-19 World Cup out in Australia next summer.
“I was expecting to maybe get a game at some point and do a job, but never this.
“The highlight so far has definitely been my first wicket when I took (Kent’s) Joe Denly. I will never forget the sight of that leg stump cart-wheeling away.”
Already Topley has been compared to current England beanpole bowler Stuart Broad and former Essex left-arm fast bowler John Lever, with some even tipping him for England Lions honours this year.
The son of former Essex player Don (who now teaches at RHS) is remaining well grounded though.
“I’m not going to say I’m going to get a five-for every game – that’s just not going to happen,” he said. “But I’m obviously doing something right and hopefully I can keep it up.
“I don’t think I can even start thinking about England just yet. Let’s give it another four years and see where I am then. I’m not getting too carried away.”