Reece Topley's hard yards top Trent Bridge Bowlers Cemetery

Reece Topley’s hard yards top Trent Bridge Bowlers Cemetery

Few venues in the world of cricket have such an intimidating reputation for T20 bowlers as Trent Bridge. The pitches are flat, the outfield is scorched and the boundaries are unforgiving: there is a relatively long pocket, where the six requires a touch of 75 yards, but the square boundaries are a mere 65 yards.

In this context, England’s decision to choose an extra batter in this game – they gave up Sam Curran for Phil Salt – was a bet, which was justified by their victory in 17 points. The combination of Liam Livingstone and Moeen Ali’s spin, sharing the fifth bowler’s allowance, was hammered, taken for 67 runs in their four overs, but Reece Topley’s 3 for 22 spell proved decisive.

Topley was the only bowler from either side to finish with a save rate of less than 7.5 and was awarded the Player of the Match award. ESPNcricinfo’s impact algorithm suggested that Suryakumar Yadav was the better performer by far, but also that Topley’s wickets – he dismissed Rohit Sharma, Rishabh Pant and Shreyas Iyer – were worth much more than the scoreboard showed.

Topley’s method was simple, hitting tough lengths and looking to hamper Indian batters for room. According to ball-by-ball data from ESPNcricinfo, only two of his 24 balls were fuller than a good length, with the vast majority crashing downfield while varying his speeds. “The batters came out and said the changes of pace in the middle of the wicket were the hardest to deal with,” he explained.

He struck twice on the power play, including with his first pitch when Pant threw a long ball in his pad and to Jos Buttler, then with the last pitch of his second when Sharma failed to choose his slower ball and dragged a pull. straight into the deep midwicket gorge. At the Ageas Bowl he had three overs on the power play, but Buttler saved his third for the 12th, when he conceded just five singles.

When he returned for his final, India needed 66 runs from the last 30 balls to seal a series sweep. Yadav was stealing, dominating a partnership worth 119 in 10.1 overs with Shreyas. Buttler needed a wicket, and Topley delivered: Shreyas rushed outside the leg but Topley followed him up with a short ball, impeding him for room and inducing Buttler to feather.

The rest of his over was equally suspicious: he conceded only a four-ball single to Dinesh Karthik, repeatedly knocking him back with his long lengths, and as Suryakumar dabbed his final ball for four, he pushed the rate required beyond 15 an over, which would prove insurmountable.

Some cricketers spend every waking hour thinking about the game, but Topley, by his own admission, isn’t like that. He himself admitted that he was “not a big watcher of cricket” and was surprised by Suryakumar’s innings, which were full of “some amazing shots – shots I had never seen before”, but he stuck to his clear plan, apparently aided by his ability to extinguish and “isolate every bullet”.

“Bowling these days is a bit of a thankless job, but you just have to put your hand up and be brave,” he said. “One day it doesn’t go your way and you’re the bad guy and you have to prepare for the next game to try to be the hero. Bowlers these days have almost more to learn mentally about T20 cricket – can -be more than skills.

“There are other games where things don’t hit you and you get 1 for 40 or whatever. You have to go high when things happen because the game is quite temperamental and there are a lot of days where it doesn’t work ‘t.”

Topley didn’t feature for England in last year’s T20 World Cup but took the opportunities that presented themselves this year: first in Barbados against West Indies and now against India : he has seven wickets in six T20I this year, with excellent economy. rate of exactly seven plus.

He is part of the squad that will play next week’s ODIs against India and is now certain to earn further chances against South Africa. He plays in the mid-80s (130kph) and generates a stiff bounce thanks to his height, which could be an asset in all phases of a round in Australia at this year’s World Cup.

“Since the start of this year, I think I’ve taken every opportunity that has come my way,” he said. “But [with a] new coach and a new captain, there are new people to try to impress. In my head, it’s back to square one – trying to impress the right people. But at the end of the day, it’s about getting wins as a team and trying, in every game, to figure out how we get closer to a bid to win the World Cup in October.”

Matt Roller is associate editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98

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