The game England did not want has led to the outcome they most feared: another freak injury and another key player out of the T20 World Cup. Scans have shown that Reece Topley’s trip over the advertising cushions at the Gabba in Brisbane during fielding practice before Monday’s warm-up against Pakistan has led to two ruptured ligaments in his left ankle, and he will fly home before England’s tournament has even begun for an operation and the start of his recuperation.
Topley’s injury follows that of Jonny Bairstow, who broke his left leg in three places and dislocated an ankle after slipping during a round of golf last month. England cannot confirm Topley’s withdrawal from the tournament until the International Cricket Council have approved the seamer’s replacement in the squad with one of the travelling reserves. England have two fast bowler in that three-man group, Tymal Mills and Richard Gleeson, as well as the spinning all-rounder Liam Dawson. This is expected on Thursday, if not earlier, but Jos Buttler and Matthew Mott are already redrafting their XI for Saturday’s opening game against Afghanistan.
Topley has emerged as a key player for England during a breakout year in the format, and he is their leading wicket-taker in T20s this year. His injury means an overwhelmingly positive build-up to the World Cup, which featured series wins in Pakistan and against Australia before that warm-up victory, again over Pakistan, has ended in disappointment.
Monday’s game featured another slip that would have caused concern among England’s coaching staff, as Liam Livingstone – making his return from an ankle injury of his own – fell while turning for a second run, and stayed on the ground for a few seconds before rising gingerly to his feet. But not only did he continue to play, he said later that this moment came as a significant morale-boost.
“It was actually nice to slip because it gives you a little bit of confidence,” he said. “Considering I had a 12-week injury and we’re just at the end of week seven I’m pretty happy with where I’m at, and we’ve still go another few games before the first game. I didn’t want to go hell for leather, I just wanted to make sure I got back to cricket and got through my bowling. The turning and stuff was going to be difficult, so to have a slip on it and to feel all right is a bit of a confidence booster.”
Livingstone has had his ankle tightly swaddled in bandages for every flight – and there have been several, with England’s visit to Australia starting on the west coast, moving to Canberra and then Brisbane in the east and returning to Perth in the west, all within the first fortnight. “Flying hasn’t been the easiest,” he said. “I have to compress it every time I fly. It’s just been a bit niggly and I’ve done everything I can to make sure I’m fit and available for Saturday. I played at 90% on Monday, which is what we’re after.”
Despite not giving his maximum Livingstone did manage to hit one monstrous six, which landed on the roof of the Gabba before rolling out of the stadium. “Harry Brook was actually taking the mick out of me, saying this was a stadium I hadn’t cleared, and I said if ever there was a chance to do it it was on that wicket,” Livingstone said. “So it was nice to be batting with Brooky at the time. It’s nice to get a few out of the middle to get going. I’ve still got some work to do batting-wise but I’m pretty close to where I want to be.”