England left-armer Reece Topley revealed he cherishes being involved in the decisive moments of matches following a turbulent injury history that has leant some perspective to his outlook.
Topley has previously admitted he thought his career was over in his mid-20s due to multiple stress fractures in his back, but the 6ft 7in seamer has painstakingly worked to get back into England contention in recent months.
In his first T20 international appearance in six years on Sunday, Topley made early inroads into the West Indies attack by trapping Brandon King lbw second ball before running out Shai Hope with an inventive bit of fielding.
With England then under the cosh amid an onslaught of sixes from Romario Shepherd and Akeal Hosein, Topley conceded just eight runs in the penultimate over as the tourists claimed a series-levelling victory, by a margin of just one run.
“I’ve had it slightly different than other people that play international cricket, in terms of the journey that I’ve had, I think my perspective is quite unique,” said Topley, still only 27.
“Even when I’ve been injured so much, you’d almost bite someone’s hand off to play in a T20 and bowl four overs for 40-something. It’s almost like, at least I’m out there. So then those bad days, I know it won’t be the last bad day I have.
“It’s not like I haven’t got this competitive instinct, it’s just I’m very realistic about things now and very level-headed. That has boded well for me since coming back and playing, because those pressure scenarios, I just embrace them.
“I almost feel like it’s normal to be nervous and it’s exciting because it’s a game on the line for your country. Who wouldn’t be nervous? I think that’s the perspective that I’m pretty lucky to have stumbled upon.”
Even when I’ve been injured so much, you’d almost bite someone’s hand off to play in a T20 and bowl four overs for 40-somethingReece Topley
Topley, who was upgraded to England’s T20 World Cup squad from travelling reserve in the United Arab Emirates a couple of months ago, conceded just 18 from his four overs, his most economical outing for England in the format.
But he reflected with some pride on making early inroads into the Windies batting at Barbados’ Kensington Oval, where his parents were in attendance, after England had made 171 for eight.
After accounting for King, who made an unbeaten fifty in England’s nine-wicket defeat on Saturday, for a golden duck, Topley also rapped Hope on the pad. Had England sent the not out decision upstairs, the review would have gone in their favour but, with the ball still live, Topley reacted quickly to run Hope out.
“As a bowler my currency is wickets,” said Topley. “If you ask me I’d say that I can take wickets at any stage and in any format at the end of the day. It’s what I get up in the morning for – to try and get batsmen out essentially. It’s why I fell in love with cricket.
“In my job in T20, bowling at the top and the end is what I do. You’ve just got to put yourself in the pressure scenarios. It came off well then there’s games where it doesn’t.
Winning games for England 🏴— England Cricket (@englandcricket) January 24, 2022
With Mum and Dad in the stands 👪
A special evening for the Topleys ❤ pic.twitter.com/OjxnMaSYtX
“You have to keep the hunger even in the games where it isn’t falling your way, it’s just the nature of the beast.”
Topley’s intervention at the back end of the Windies innings left the hosts needing 30 from the last six balls, but number 10 batter Hosein thumped two fours and three sixes as Saqib Mahmood’s over went for an eye-watering 28 as England prevailed by the narrowest of margins.
“I’ve been there before where you just get wrapped up in it,” added Topley. “It’s the pressure scenario, the whole match becomes a match within a match in those last few overs.
“There’s games where you’re the good guy and there’s games where you’re the bad guy. It’s the nature of being the guy that bowls at the death or bowls up top in those key parts of the innings. When it doesn’t fall your way, you’ve got to get up the next day and be just as hungry for the game to be put on your shoulders again.”
The five-match series, currently finely poised at 1-1, resumes on Wednesday.