Reece Topley ‘undercooked’ as England prepare for World Cup opener
Reece Topley is ready to play the long game as he looks to put his World Cup woes behind him, but the seamer admits England’s interrupted preparations have left him “undercooked”.
England get their title defence under way in Ahmedabad on Thursday when they face New Zealand in a replay of the 2019 final, but their lead up to that curtain-raiser has been less than straightforward.
A 38-hour trip to their warm-up base in Guwahati was branded “utter chaos” by Jonny Bairstow, before their first practice match against India was rained off without a ball being bowled.
They were able to get some game time in against Bangladesh on Monday, but their four-wicket win came in a game reduced to 37 overs and none of their bowlers delivered more than five.
That is a light load to take into a flagship fixture, but for Topley simply arriving at the Narendra Modi Stadium fit for duty would be a success of sorts.
Little over a year ago, just days before the start of the T20 World Cup in Australia, he tripped on a boundary sponge and was ruled out of a tournament England went on to win.
“If anything I would say that I’m pretty undercooked, but going into a long tournament I don’t necessarily think that is the worst thing,” the left-armer said after tuning up with a three-wicket haul.
“I feel like I’m just about to come into my stride, hopefully. It’s not about tearing in at the warm up game and impressing the right people, it is about delivering in the nine group games.
“That last group game is still pretty far away so I feel like I’m where I should be, but there is still some work to be done for sure.
“After missing the first game due to the weather it was good for us to be able to get out on the field and for people to get what they needed from the experience which is a positive outcome.
“We’ve all been doing our training after having a couple of weeks without matches so it is nice to get back in the groove with playing in the middle and it helps to assess what you still need to work on before that first proper match.”
Topley, who has lost long spells of his career due to injury problems, has spoken openly about the trauma of his late withdrawal from last year’s trophy-winning side and has been doing everything in his power to avoid a repeat. Mercifully, his luck has held so far.
“I’ve been steering clear of any mishaps and playing it quite safe, and I’ll continue to do so ahead of the first game,” he said.
“Obviously I don’t want any repeat of what was so gutting last year in Brisbane at the T20 World Cup. It was a tough period to go through and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone because these are the moments and the events that you dream of being a part of and playing your part in.
“Hopefully I can play my part this year and make up for lost time if anything and make a contribution to England going all the way again. I’m looking forward to getting some game time, just as I was anticipating last year, and this time hopefully I can help the team retain the trophy.”
There is stiff competition for places among the England bowling ranks, with Topley joining Chris Woakes, Mark Wood, David Willey, Sam Curran and Gus Atkinson in a well-stocked pace attack.
England expect it to be a group effort in India, with a draining schedule that involves new venues and internal flights for every group match, but everyone has their eye on the opening match as the first signs of a pecking order emerge.
“I think everyone is fighting for a spot in that final XI. You’ve just got to do all you can to put your case forward to feature in that side,” Topley explained.
“I felt like I gave a good account of myself in the run out. Whatever 11 they end up picking, the whole squad is right behind each other, it is going to take a squad effort to be successful out here and the side that goes out in each match will continue to live up to the exciting way we play our cricket.”
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