Topley poised to play in opening match

SUFFOLK schoolboy Reece Topley is poised to play in Essex’s opening LC County Championship match of the season.

Topley, who is just 17 and still at school, impressed both during the county’s pre-season tour to Barbados and also on his first-class debut in the drawn fixture against Cambridge MCCU at the weekend.

The 6ft 7ins left-arm fast bowler, who took three for 48 at Fenner’s, may have been too young to wear the logo of Dutch lager Oranjeboom on his Clydesdale Bank40 shirt at yesterday’s Press Day. But head coach Paul Grayson is in no doubt that he is old enough to make the step up.

Asked which of the county’s young players he expected to breakthrough this season, Grayson said: “I was really impressed by the three young Academy lads that came on tour with us to Barbados – Tymal Mills, Recce Topley and Ben Foakes – while Adam Wheater is in very good form and Michael Comber also showed good form last year in one-day cricket.

“I guess the one stand-out so far has been Reece. He bowled really well in Barbados and he was the pick of the bowlers at Cambridge and there is every chance he will make his debut against Kent here on Friday.

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“He has only just turned 17, but we feel he is good enough to play and I think there is a good chance that he will play.”

Only 18 players, including the aforementioned three Academy players, were present at yesterday’s Press Day at Chelmsford.

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Former England batsman Owais Shah, recruited in the off-season following his release from Middlesex, and Ryan ten Doeschate, who had an excellent World Cup with Holland, were absent as they will play in this year’s Indian Premier League, which also starts on Friday.

On the plus side Ashes hero Alastair Cook and Ravi Bopara, who played for England in the World Cup but missed out on an IPL contract this year, should be available for the first six County Championship matches.

Essex may have been relegated back to Division Two last summer after just one season in the top flight, but Grayson said: “We played some good cricket last year – we outplayed Durham twice, we beat Notts here and outplayed them at Trent Bridge and they won the County Championship.

“Overall I thought our four-day cricket made some big strides, but just at the vital time we lost form and too many of our players were down in the dumps a little bit for that period.

“I am certainly expecting us to make a big push this year and I have challenged the players if we don’t go up this year then we have failed as a group.

“Our No. 1 priority is to get promoted again but also we want to try to win a one-day competition. We qualified for two semi-finals last year, where we just fell away, but hopefully this year we can win some honours and play some good cricket.”

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