Reece Topley has been ruled out of the rest of the season after being diagnosed with a recurrence of a stress fracture in the lower back.
Only days after it emerged he had come close to a recall to the England limited-overs squad – the selectors considered him (and Yorkshire’s Matt Fisher) as a replacement for the injured Tom Curran in the T20I squad facing India – the 24-year-old Topley experienced pain in his back while bowling for England Lions on Monday and was sent for a scan. The results show the fracture that he suffered last year has returned.
He will see surgeons next week and is expected to undergo an operation shortly afterwards where a titanium pin will be inserted to strengthen the spine.
From a personal perspective, the news is catastrophic for Topley. Aged 24, his highly promising career has been plagued by back injuries. Having worked long and hard to come back from the last setback, this new blow not only ends any realistic hopes of earning a recall to the England squad ahead of the World Cup campaign, but raises questions about his future in the game.
It is his fifth stress fracture – all in L3 and L4 lumbar vertebra – in six seasons as a professional cricketer. Out of contract at Hampshire at the end of the season, clubs are likely to prove highly cautious over future contract offers.
Topley is the third bowler on the fringes of the England squads – Toby Roland-Jones and Mason Crane are the others – to have suffered a recurrence of a stress fracture this season. That’s a situation which is bound to prompt some reflection on the treatment of such injuries at the ECB. Both Roland-Jones and Topley also spent time on the ECB’s recently discontinued pace programme.
The news realistically ends a relationship between Hampshire and Topley that never really took off as expected. Signed amid great hope and competition, he managed only three Championship matches in three years and was disappointed to be left out of the side playing in the Royal London Final at Lord’s on Saturday.
He impressed the England management as recently as last week, however, in bowling with pace and skill in a Lions match at Northampton – he claimed 4 for 16 – and revived hopes he could add to his tally of 10 ODI and six T20I caps.