Teen bowls England batsman

TEENAGE swing bowler Reece Topley is being tipped for the top after dismissing England batsman Alistair Cook twice during filming for a special television programme at Essex County Cricket Club.

Stuart Watson

TEENAGE swing bowler Reece Topley is being tipped for the top after dismissing England batsman Alistair Cook twice during filming for a special television programme at Essex County Cricket Club.

American sports television network ESPN are currently filming a documentary on the world's best cricket academies and chose Essex as their place to visit in England back in June.

At 14-years-old, left-arm swing bowler Topley is still officially too young for the Chelmsford-based side's academy set-up, however, he was given a special invite to the television training day such is his growing reputation at the club.


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The Royal Hospital School pupil was therefore surprised when, as he was limbering up for a practice in the nets, England's Alistair Cook asked if he could have a knock.

The Polstead resident refused to be star struck though and duly dismissed the 23-year-old not once, but twice - Cook edging one behind before the towering teenager clean bowled him.

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Reece, who is son of former Essex player Don Topley, said: “Dismissing Alastair Cook out twice in the nets really was fantastic and that gave me confidence to bowl at fine players.”

That day did have a downside though, Topley breaking the little finger in his bowling hand when trying to catch a powerful Cook drive just minutes after his wickets. That injury also added to an on-going back spasm he has been suffering.

Since the summer, Topley has been included as one of 18 young bowlers from the whole of the UK to be invited to the England & Wales Cricket Board's Talent Bowling Analysis Project based in Loughborough.

Despite being 6ft 5in tall, Topley was surprisingly one of the smaller bowlers on show, although the Suffolk youngster was the youngest there.

Kevin Shine, the ECB Lead Bowling Coach, said: “We have got together the best 18 young bowlers who we believe may have the potential to make the grade in professional cricket.

“We want to analyse the biomechanics of their bowling actions to identify early if they may experience injury problems like stress fractures of the back.”

Topley was videoed by the Sky Sports 'Hawkeye' camera which captured his bowling action at over 100 images per second to analyse his swing, bounce and pace.

Shine, along with former England bowler Richard Johnson and England Under-19 Coach Andy Pick, put the bowlers through their paces. Pick said: “Reece has lots of potential and is really developing as a bowler. He proved to us that he has got excellent control with his line and length, with left arm in-swing too, which is very important to his type of bowling. This confirms to us that his wrist and body are in good positions at the crease.”

Topley, who bowls at around 70mph, had an excellent summer with Essex's U14s who shared the National ECB U14 Cup with Wales, but won the annual ECB Taunton Tournament in August. He has also represented a London and East Regional U14 XI this summer, where he proved himself just as economic as dangerous.

Pick added: “This is and will be a most crucial area for Reece. He must work hard on his strength and conditioning so that he has less chance of breaking down and that his body will be able to cope with the huge demands placed on fast bowlers - there are no short cuts when it comes to fitness.”

REECE Topley has been aided in his fight for fitness by Stoke by Nayland Golf and Spa Club.

The impressive complex has offered their impressive gym facilities to the promising young cricketer free of charge during his school holidays as he maintains his physical shape over the winter break.

The 14-year-old has suffered from back spasms in recent months and has had the biomechanics of his bowling action analysed in order to prevent any further damage so early on in his sporting career.

Stoke by Nayland Gold and Spa's managing director Susanna Rendall said: “As a club we have always been very keen to encourage young sporting talent - we are currently sponsoring two of our junior golf members in the England Elite team as well as Jamie Moul who has now turned professional.

“We were therefore very pleased to be in a position to offer our state-of-the-art fitness facilities at Peake Fitness to Reece, who is undoubtedly an enormously talented local sportsman. We look forward very much to following his promising future career.”Over the winter Topley will also continue to work on his batting in his attempt to become a genuine all-rounder. He completed his maiden century for Colchester & East Essex at Great Braxted in August, where he contributed 103 out of a 249-run third wicket partnership.

In addition to representing the Royal Hospital School at rugby and hockey, Topley will be back in the nets busily preparing for his school's first overseas cricket tour when he will be leading RHS U15s on a 17-day trip to Sri Lanka.

Longer term, Topley has his sights on a dream spot in the England U15 team and a professional contract with a leading club.

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