ESSEX bowling sensation Reece Topley has seen his gamble to leave school to pursue his professional cricket dreams pay off after a scintillating summer in the shorter form of the game.
The 6ft 7in bowler from Polstead Heath, near Hadleigh, has taken the white ball world by storm and is now looking forward to preparing for what should be his first full season with Essex.
The 18-year-old ended the ICC Under-19 World Cup in Australia as the leading wicket taker this summer with 19, while also finishing the Friends Life Twenty20 competition with his county side as the second highest wicket taker (17 from 32 overs at an average of 14.47) to cap a memorable campaign.
It came after the son of former Essex fast bowler Don Topley last year made the bold decision to leave his education behind at the Royal Hospital School in Holbrook, near Ipswich, where his father is cricket master, having completed his first year of A-Levels.
“I think with how I have done this season it was the right choice,” he said, having played in all but one of Essex’s Twenty20 games, only missing the first match as Paul Grayson’s side fell to defeat to Somerset in the semi-final, as well as bowling 113 overs in their LV County Championship matches, taking 11 wickets with best figures of 3-59.
But it was on the other side of the world in the Under-19 World Cup, where England finished fifth, that the former Hadleigh player made his biggest impression, becoming the second highest wicket-taker in the history of the competition, drawing plenty of praise, including from England coach Tim Boon.
“I probably did a bit better than I had imagined,” he said. “I take all the kind words from everyone on and it is quite flattering to have things said but nothing changes and I have still got to put the work in to have the opportunities.”
And his performances for his country have left Topley, who only made his Essex first-class debut in April 2011, dreaming the ultimate honour could be just around the corner.
He said: “It is nice to have performed in the England kit and if I can do it again for the full England team, that is where I want to be and if I keep doing what I am doing hopefully it will come soon.
“Last year I was not that great as a one-day bowler, but I put in a lot of hours over the winter at Chlemsford’s indoor centre with Essex coach Chris Silverwood and I am now a better white ball than red ball bowler.
“Next season will be a lot tougher physically but it is another challenge and I am looking forward to it.”
Meanwhile, Sudbury Cricket Club are celebrating the news former player Nick Compton, who played twice for the Talbots in the 2001 season, has been called up to the England Test squad for the tour of India this winter.
The grandson of former England and Middlesex player Denis Compton is set to become only Sudbury’s second Test player. Kumar Shri Ranjitsimhji, who played 15 times for England from 1896, was the first.