England suffered the first setback of their tour of Australia on Monday when Reece Topley tripped on the boundary advertising cushions at the Gabba during a fielding drill and turned an ankle, making him a serious doubt for the T20 World Cup opener against Afghanistan on Saturday.
The 28-year-old wore a protective boot on his left foot as he left Brisbane with the rest of the squad on Monday morning to travel to Perth, where they play their opening game. He will be closely monitored over the next couple of days, with no training scheduled until Thursday.
Topley has had a sensational few months in the format, having returned to the England side in January after nearly six years when a weakened squad without any of its multi-format players travelled to Barbados. The 6ft 7in left-armer was considered very likely to be in Saturday’s XI, having as played 16 matches since his recall. He is England’s leading wicket-taker this year with 17, while his economy rate of 7.80 since is bettered only by Mark Wood, Chris Woakes, Ben Stokes and Liam Dawson, all of whom have played five or fewer T20 internationals in 2022.
Should Topley’s injury be significant enough to rule him out of the tournament, England have two seam bowlers among their three travelling reserves in Tymal Mills and Richard Gleeson, who could join the playing group if required. England completed their World Cup preparations with a warm-up game against Pakistan on Monday, which they won by six wickets, but though reserves were permitted to play in that match. England chose not to use them.
Mills and Gleeson have both taken full part in net sessions but neither is exactly match-honed: Gleeson played in two of England’s seven games on last month’s tour of Pakistan, while Mills has only played twice since June, most recently on 10 August. Most of the squad, however, will appreciate a day and a half at leisure in Perth after what has been a hectic period of preparation.
“We’ve played a lot and we’re definitely ready now,” Sam Curran said. “We feel like we’re playing good cricket. Winning is a habit but at the same time, we’ve seen some of the results already at the World Cup. It’s a T20 format, anything can happen but we’re confident we’ve got a group of players who are really powerful and skilful in those different scenarios that we might face. It’s fair to say we’re really excited, hopefully we’ll have a couple of good training sessions in Perth and come the weekend we’ll be good.”
Monday’s match saw both a player sustaining a new ankle injury and a player returning from an old one, with Liam Livingstone bowling and batting on his first appearance since August. “It was great to have a game like that for Liam, who’s been out for a while,” Curran said. “That type of game was almost perfect to get him back in and the fact he hit some balls out in the middle and bowled really nicely as well was great.”
Across Brisbane at Allan Border Field, Afghanistan also had a convincing warm-up win on Monday, beating Bangladesh by 62 runs. They will conclude their own preparations with a final practice game, against Pakistan on Wednesday, before travelling to Perth but their buildup to the tournament has contrasted with England, who had played 10 competitive matches against Pakistan and Australia before arriving in Brisbane whereas their first World Cup opponents had not played since early September.
“I think you’d definitely rather be playing,” Curran said. “I guess you get that confidence, especially if you’re winning. But Afghanistan are extremely skilful, they’ve got world-class players who can win you games by themselves. They’ve got some entertaining, world-class spinners, we know that, and they’ve got some very powerful batters up top. We’ll be doing our research and our plans but we know it’s going to be a really tough opening game.”