Topley soaking up his rapid rise

At the age of 15, a net session sent Reece Topley to hospital when he was struck on the side of the head by a Kevin Pietersen drive while bowling to England at Loughborough. As a 21-year-old, another net session with the national side went so well that it has propelled him to within touching distance of a place in the World T20 squad.

It was during the one-day series against New Zealand when Topley was asked to come down as a net bowler. He so impressed Paul Farbrace, who was still looking after the team day-to-day before Trevor Bayliss arrived, and captain Eoin Morgan that he was named in the T20 squad for the New Zealand match at Old Trafford.

He did not make the XI that day, but did debut against Australia where he showcased his nerve to help close out a tight victory at Cardiff. His ODI debut followed at Old Trafford and he has recently featured in all four matches against Pakistan, helping England to a 3-1 series victory by taking six wickets and with an economy rate of 4.40.

It has all taken Topley a little by surprise. In 2014 he missed most of the season with a stress fracture of his back having put too much strain on his frame as a 19-year-old when he burst on the scene the previous summer - following an outstanding Under-19 World Cup in Australia where he was the leading wicket-taker - and was then called up for England Lions. Now, the forthcoming three T20s against Pakistan are a chance for him to further push his claims for a spot in the 15-man squad for the World T20 in India next March.

"Last year I was on the sidelines with a stress fracture so if I was able to get into the World T20 squad, a year ago I wouldn't have said that would be a possibility," he said. "Now playing in this series, everyone in the squad has an eye on the World T20. We are all fighting for places, it's healthy competition.

"You want people earning the right to be on the flight and from a team perspective it will be a good chance to gauge ourselves - three matches in a row will measure where we are, it can be hard having a Test series, a one-day series and a one-off T20 so this is a good time to relish that opportunity."

Topley's first attempt to return from his stress fracture at the start of the 2015 season had to be aborted when the injury re-emerged and on his second comeback he was carefully used by Essex. He played just two Championship matches last season but Topley, who has since completed a move to Hampshire, insists he is now completely recovered.

"I played a full summer when I was 19, think I only missed two or three games, and I bowled a lot of overs then I came away with the Lions. As a 19-year-old when your country comes calling there was no way I was turning that down, so a bit naively I went down that route although I was told I didn't have to go on it.

"It was the straw which broke the camel's back, well it broke my back not the camel's, and led to the stress fracture. I spent six months out of the game, came back early season for Essex and probably did a bit too much too early then it went again and it led to a label of me being injury-prone which I think is a bit unfair."

And while he is having "the time of his life" being part of England's limited-overs set-up he is eager not to be pigeon-holed purely as a one-day and T20 cricketer.

"I started played for Essex in red-ball cricket but then it just happened that I was playing a lot more white-ball cricket with the U-19s and they my white-ball skills took off," he said. "I felt I learned quite quickly, it overtook my red-ball ability, but I have a massive passion for first-class cricket. It would be an absolute demon hanging over me if I was labelled a white-ball cricket because I'm not."

England will prepare for the T20 series with a warm-up match against a UAE XI in Abu Dhabi on Monday before the first of the three internationals takes place in Dubai on Thursday.

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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