Bowling sensation lights up season

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FROM Friars Road to Lord’s, it’s been one amazing journey for Essex’s new star bowler Reece Topley.

But despite the 6ft 7in teenager, from Polstead Heath, having taken two five-wicket hauls on the opening weekends of the LV County Championship season, he is adamant about one thing: This is only the beginning.

Andrew Strauss, Paul Collingwood, Alistair Cook, Joe Denley, Chris Rodgers, Rob Key, it reads like a who’s who of 21st Century English cricket, but they have all fallen to the left-arm pace bowling technique honed in a green corner of Hadleigh.

And Topley, whose father and coach at the Royal Hospital School in Holbrook was an Essex championship-winning player, hopes to one day have his name in that sort of list.

“In six years time I will still be fairly young (23) and if I had a shot (at international cricket) then I would be very pleased,” Topley told the Suffolk Free Press.

“I just need to keep taking wickets at this level and training well.”

It was a whirlwind start to first-class cricket for the 17-year-old, who took a fifer on his Championship debut at Chelmsford against Kent, before amazingly repeating the feat at the home of English cricket, Lord’s, against Middlesex, including the scalps of Rob Key and Geraint Jones.

Topley said: “I was hoping for some play in the first team but to start the first game of the season and get that amount of wickets left me very pleasantly surprised.

“I always knew I could pull something like that off as I believe in myself and knew I had the skills to perform at that level.”

Those skills were first tried out in senior cricket at Hadleigh at the tender age of 12, where Topley’s ability meant no-one hesitated at entrusting him with opening the bowling for the second string - he was there until the age of 14.

“Obviously being 12 playing with adults is quite a big challenge,” he said. “I did not do too badly, but I would not say I stood out, things quite regularly did not go my way but it allowed me to get used to the longer forms of cricket which I had not played before.”

But Topley, who has a signed bat by Kevin Pieterson to say sorry for a training drive that forced him to have nine stitches around his ear, is having to put cricket on hold while he knuckles down to his AS-level exams at the end of this month.

The son of Don Topley is sitting media studies, business studies and PE, but the England under-17 development player looks nailed on to swap his books for his bat and ball full-time before too long.