The left-arm seamer is enjoying life at Surrey and wants to have a real run at red-ball cricket this term, in addition to his continuing excellence with the white ball.
Surrey paceman Reece Topley is hoping to hit the ground running in red-ball cricket this season. The left-arm quick has his sights set on further international honours after a prosperous winter with England’s white-ball set-up.
Topley stated his desire to elevate his red-ball game this campaign ahead of Surrey’s LV= Insurance County Championship opener against Warwickshire, and he got his campaign off to a dream start, bowling Dominic Sibley from his very first ball.
The left-arm quick took 21 wickets for the club in first-class cricket last season despite initially signing a white-ball contract back in 2019. And following an eventful winter, Topley has reaffirmed his hunger for more success in the game’s longer format.
“I just want to take a lot of wickets,” he said on the eve of the Warwickshire clash. “That’s your currency as a bowler. The feeling of taking a wicket never falters, it’s always amazing. But with red-ball cricket, you’ve got an opportunity to take a lot and that’s what I want to do.”
This winter, the 28-year-old has predominantly been trying to perfect the art of unpredictability, mastering the variations needed to go well in white-ball cricket. However, since returning to The Kia Oval for pre-season, his focus has shifted, ensuring his skills are fined-tuned for the first block of Championship fixtures.
“It takes a lot of change to go from playing white-ball all winter and then going into play red-ball. It’s a massive tactical jump, in terms of lengths and lines and also the balls you use, going from Kookaburra to a Dukes. But that’s what pre-season is for, to make those changes and hopefully be able to adapt.”
Topley was also able to reflect on another promising winter overseas for club and country. The Englishman jetted off to the T20 World Cup following an injury to Tymal Mills, before a stint in the Big Bash League with Melbourne Renegades and a five-match T20 series in Barbados with Eoin Morgan’s men to kick-start the new year.
The Suffolk-born bowler was forced to get his belongings together pretty quickly before heading off to the UAE last autumn.
“I didn’t really have it on my radar!” he said. “It was a bit eleventh-hour getting called to the World Cup. I was in Ibiza! I had to jump on a flight to Abu Dhabi and somehow I managed to get out there. In tournament cricket you never really veer off from the same XI so I had no real anticipation I was going to play much, but I managed to work on some things in my white-ball game.
“I then flew out to Melbourne and had a great time. I love the city, love the players, love people. And hopefully, I’ll go back and play for them again in the future.
“Then, Barbados was amazing. Playing for England is always a great challenge and an amazing feat once you do it and hopefully there’s more of that to come.”
Clearly, Topley enjoyed himself. And the numbers reflect that. Nine wickets at an average of 25 was a respectable return in a Renegades side that finished bottom of the BBL ladder.
While in Barbados, he was entrusted with the new ball, picking up three wickets and keeping it tight with an economy of just seven. That quartet of matches under the Barbadian sun took his England appearance tally to 23 and now he’s had another taste at the elite level, he wants more.
“I think every time I’ve got an England opportunity I’ve proved that I can hold it at that level. I’ve had a lot of success at that level so I think it’s just creating the narrative around me that the selectors will keep picking me. It’s all about creating the narrative around yourself, where you leave them no option to leave you out.”
To do that, Topley knows he’ll have to perform for his county. And this season under new leadership, Gareth Batty’s team, along with the 6ft 7in seamer, will be hoping to get off on the right foot.
“I want to win games for Surrey, red-ball and white-ball, play for England again and that would be a very successful summer. It is a change [Gareth Batty taking over as head coach], but again it’s not really. It’s pretty much a seamless change. Azhar [Mahmood] has obviously been around Surrey before, Troughts [Jim Troughton] I knew before from being out in Melbourne with him and he’s a great addition as well so I don’t think it’s an excuse we can use.
“You look at the season in blocks, we’ve got six games in the first block. We’re Surrey cricketers and we’ve got an expectation to deliver and do well.”