England want ‘X factor player’ to replace injured Reece Topley at World Cup
England are on the lookout for an “X factor” player to re-energise their World Cup campaign after Reece Topley was ruled out of the tournament with a broken finger.
Topley’s long-running injury curse struck again during Saturday’s record defeat at the hands of South Africa in Mumbai, with the in-form left-arm seamer fracturing the index finger of his bowling hand attempting to block a drive.
The 29-year-old’s initial anguished reaction gave a heavy hint that he was in trouble and, although he bravely returned to the attack with taped up digits, follow-up scans have confirmed the break.
England, who are in strife after three heavy defeats in their first four games, will send for a replacement but have yet to decide who will step in for their leading wicket taker.
Durham’s Brydon Carse is a strong candidate and would offer a handy pace option in the middle overs as well as strong lower-order batting, while Lancashire’s Luke Wood matches Topley’s description as a left-arm new-ball specialist.
But like-for-like substitutes are not mandatory and head coach Matthew Mott admitted England would assess every option.
Big-hitting opener Jason Roy, who was named in the provisional squad then cut for Harry Brook at the last moment, represents the most intriguing of all potential options.
He was widely believed to have played his last game after being left out on the eve of the tournament, and turned down a place in subsequent squad to face Ireland, but England have consistently said he remained in contention as a reserve.
He also represents a link to the fast fading glory days on 2019 but whether it is a tangent they would be willing to take, having thrown their faith behind Dawid Malan at the top of the order, is far from certain.
The versatile Ben Duckett is also on the list of possibles, while spin bowling all-rounders Rehan Ahmed and Will Jacks would represent an obvious investment in the future of a side in need of renewal.
Asked if England would be looking for a pace bowler in Topley’s absence, Mott said: “That’s a good question. We’ll have to sit down and have a look at that.
“We’ll have to look at the upcoming games (and see) if there is an X factor player we can look at.
“That’s why we were very keen not to name the replacements and reserves. It leaves an open mind for what we’re going to go with.”
Rob Key, the managing director of England men’s cricket, is currently with the squad and travelled with them from Mumbai to Bengaluru on Sunday. He will also have a big say in the final decision, joining Mott and captain Jos Buttler.
Announcing Topley’s exit from the campaign, the England and Wales Cricket Board said: “Scans in Mumbai on Saturday, after the match at the Wankhede Stadium, revealed the full extent of the injury. Topley will return to the UK in the next 24 hours.
“He will work closely with the England and Surrey medical teams in respect of his rehabilitation. A replacement will be announced in due course.”
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