Reece Topley – remember the name

The second round of Championship matches is underway, and I’ve made it to first day at both The Oval and Lord’s so far. Brilliant sunshine last week, unashamed murk this – it turns out that the start of the British summer was a bigger myth than the good guy football star.

The cricket has been a mixture of brilliant and murk too. On the one hand there was the uninhibited strokeplay of Rory Hamilton-Brown and Tom Maynard on the first day at the Oval, and the raw promise of the Essex left-armer Reece Topley today. On the other there is trying to rationalise the value of watching a Northants attack led by 35-year-old South African Andrew Hall and 37-year-old Sri Lankan Chaminda Vaas, similarly Middlesex’s opening batsmen of Australian Chris Rogers (33) and Surrey cast-off Scott Newman (31).

If this is a familiar moan I’m sorry, but it’s true, there are too many teams in the Championship. Let’s move on anyway, for in Topley, England has a real prospect. At 17, with seven wickets in his Championship debut against Kent last week and five more today, the figures look good. I can confirm that they don’t flatter – there is plenty to be excited about for Essex and England fans. Don’s son is tall, extracts bounce, and swings the ball – at least in these early season conditions. Pace-wise he would be low to mid-eighties at the moment and his run-up needs work but crucially he is in a decent position at release, giving him notable consistency for one so young, despite a tired third spell.

Maurice Chambers was a fearsome sight up close in the nets when in Australia with the Academy, but the strung-up-by-your-neck view of the Lord’s media box reveals an inherent flaw – a low-arm action, meaning that, like Saj Mahmood, he will lack the bounce to trouble the good players despite his skiddy pace. After a miserable morning spell it was unusual to see Chambers tweeting in the lunch interval that the Lord’s slope had unbalanced him – as though he was replying to the twittercism. Essex fans have been waiting for him to lead their attack for a few years – he’s one of those perennially promising types, but on this evidence it’s hard to see him breaking through unless he can discover a way to extract more bounce.

As for Middlesex’s batting – bleurgh, as nine scores between 15 and 38 suggests.

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