Dream Lord’s date now awaits Reece

REECE Topley’s dream start to the new cricket season continues with a trip to Lord’s, the spiritual home of the game, when Essex play Middlesex in Division Two of the LV County Championship starting today.

The 17-year-old left arm inswing bowler is named in a squad of 12, and with overseas player Lonwabo Tsotsobe unavailable the Royal Hospital School captain may well line up alongside England’s Ashes hero Alastair Cook and the rest of the Essex team.

After an amazing winter playing in South Africa with England Under-17s and in Barbados with Essex, Topley quickly made his mark as the domestic season got under way.

He was handed his first-class debut in the traditional pipe-opener against Cambridge University at Fenner’s and made a big impression with three wickets against the students.

He was delighted to retain his place in the County Championship opener against Kent at the County Ground at Chelmsford.

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Was he surprised to be given his chance? “Yes and no,” he said. “I felt I deserved the opportunity at Cambridge and took three wickets. For the Kent match I saw four bowlers and Ravi (Bopara) and wouldn’t have been surprised if I had been left out. But I was told I would play against Kent. It was really pleasing. In the match it was swinging, which helped me a lot.”

It was almost the dream debut in his first-ever four day match. He had a great knack of taking wickets early in his spells, and in the second innings he collected his first five-wicket haul for match figures of seven for 114. His scalps included England players Rob Key, Geraint Jones and James Tredwell.

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The only cloud on his debut was that he collected a pair and Essex wound up losing by just 57 runs.

Topley, a 6ft 7ins left-armer, bowled at a lively pace and regularly troubled the big name batsmen in the Kent line-up.

“The change in line when I came on seemed to work and I took a wicket with my third ball, and another early in my second spell.

“But I know it won’t always be like that.

“At times cricket is the loneliest sport. There is no escape and you just have to keep on going. At least you can have a second chance as a bowler, but I know that some days it will be very hard.”

His father, Don, also played for Essex. Don said: “I think we are the fifth father and son to play for the county, and the first for a long time. Reece was also the third youngest to represent Essex, which is a marvellous achievement.

“He’s worked very hard, spending many hours in the gym and people don’t see that. He’s had a very fine 10 days and deserves his success. We both believe he can contribute to first-team cricket at Essex, and he’s made a really good start.

“He should far outperform my statistics, but we have got one thing in common. We both scored 0 on our debuts!”

Essex squad: Billy Godleman, Alastair Cook, Jaik Mickleburgh, Ravi Bopara, Matt Walker, Tom Westley, James Foster, Tim Phillips, David Masters, Maurice Chambers, Chris Wright and Reece Topley.

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