Between Reece Topley’s 16th and 17th match for England, there was a gap of 1597 days. There was a six-year gap between his sixth and seventh T20I appearance. In between, Topley suffered a spate of career-threatening injuries, underwent numerous surgeries, and at one point, even thought of quitting the game. Three years ago, cricket stopped being a priority for a 6’7” seamer who started his international career at the age of 23 in 2015.
Tall, bouncy, and being a left-armer makes Topley a rare breed of bowler, against whom most of the batters struggle, as it was evident on Thursday evening at Lord’s. Asked to chase a modest target of 247, India crumbled against Topley to get bundled out for 146.
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He got rid of Rohit Sharma for a duck, then dismissed his opening partner Shikhar Dhawan, and just when Suryakumar provided a glimmer of hope for the Indian team, Topley came back and crushed it. The inroads he made put England on top, and they went on to square the series.
Topley would go on to take three more wickets, and etched his name not only in Lord’s honour book, but also in the history of English cricket. Topley’s 6-24 is the best bowling figure ever registered by an English bowler in ODI.
Three years after almost quitting the game, Topley is now leading the race to become a part of England’s bowling attack in the T20I World Cup. Even in the darkest days, Topley had full backing from this team management. But his body kept betraying him time and again. Four injuries in five years are just too much for any bowler to handle.
It was in 2018 when the ecstasy of an England comeback after two years, for the series against India turned into agony. A few days before the series, he got injured again, and was advised to undergo lower back surgery. Life, now, has come a full circle for Topley, with a thrilling display against the same opponent at the most iconic venue.
At the post-match ceremony, Topley gestured towards the Wellington Hospital that is visible from Lord’s, and said, “It makes it all worthwhile, to be honest. It was just over that stand that I had surgery three years ago. “It’s everyone’s dream to play for England and I just want to pull on the shirt as often as I can.”
“He’s had really tough experiences, not knowing if he would play again and that’s given him a real sense of perspective and a real enjoyment when he’s playing,” said the skipper Jos Buttler. “He’s got all the attributes to be a fantastic international bowler and delighted for him to get those results today”.
Featured Image Credit: Lord’s Cricket Ground