Ashes 2019: England spinner Jack Leach on playing for his local club after Ireland Test

Jack Leach

Men’s Ashes 2019: England v Australia, second Specsavers Test
Venue: Lord’s Dates: 14-18 August Start time: 11:00 BST
Coverage: Ball-by-ball Test Match Special commentary on BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra, Radio 4 LW, BBC Sport website & app. In-play highlights and live text commentary on BBC Sport website & app

Just over a week after making 92 for England at Lord’s, Jack Leach found himself with a free Saturday. He filled it by playing for Taunton Deane Cricket Club in the West of England League.

On the same day, the England team from which the Somerset spinner was omitted were just starting to lose their grip on the first Test Ashes Test at Edgbaston.

Now recalled, it means that by the time the 28-year-old lines up to play in the second Test at Lord’s on Wednesday, his most recent three opponents, in order, will be Ireland, North Perrott and Australia.

It says much about the character of one of international cricket’s most down-to-earth men.

“I’ve been at Taunton Deane since I was eight years old,” said Leach. “I needed a game of cricket and it was nice to turn out for them.

“It reminded me of where I have come from. At the root of it, I am a Taunton Deane player who has played for England. It’s amazing to remember why you play the game and to do it with a smile on your face.”

From opening the batting – albeit as nightwatchman – and being named man of the match at Lord’s, Leach paid a tenner in match fees, batted number six and bowled third change for Taunton Deane. He made 56 and took 1-8 in a 52-run win.

“It reminds you that it’s still the same game. 22 yards, a red ball,” said Leach. “It puts things in perspective.

“I feel like I’m experiencing the whole spectrum, from Lord’s to club cricket. The reason I play is because I enjoy the game and wherever that is you have to make the most of it.”

Now, Leach has returned to the venue where he fell eight runs short of becoming the first England nightwatchman to make a century.

As he prepared on a rainy Monday, he was the final England player to leave the nets, still batting when the rest of the squad had left the indoor school and then rolling his arm for three more practice overs.

Jack Leach

When Leach sat down to talk, he revealed that his great mate Jos Buttler, rested from the Ireland Test, spent his time off watching the epic knock.

“He was buzzing for me,” said Leach. “He said I reminded him of Simon Katich, the former Australia batsman. That was an interesting one.”

As for Leach himself, he explained the emotions of missing out on what will probably be the closest he ever comes to making a Test ton.

“It’s life that you always want more,” he said. “I was a little bit gutted, but mainly happy.

“I was driving home the next day and thought ‘eight more runs’. The longer it goes on, the more you think that you have missed an opportunity, but it’s still something I will look back on with fond memories.

“I’ll let it go and keep thinking ahead. I’d take 92 again. I had some friends and my girlfriend there and we went out for dinner in the evening. It was a great day.”

However, as Leach comically revealed on the night of the 92, one person who was not at Lord’s on that Thursday was his father, Simon.

Leach Sr had never before seen his son play in a Test, because all of his previous four had been overseas and he is afraid of flying. When the opportunity to see him at Lord’s came around, he turned down the ticket because of the extreme heat – temperatures touched 38 degrees on that day.

Without a Sky subscription, he watched the entire innings on his son’s television.

On outing his father for his absence, Leach said: “I feel bad but I didn’t mean it in a bad way. I want him to watch wherever he feels comfortable. It was 100% the right decision.

“He’s so passionate about my cricket and has supported me more than anyone. He was still watching every ball at my house. That doesn’t bother me at all as long as he’s happy.

“He’s not young anymore so he has to be careful. If it’s 38 degrees, it’s probably best that he’s not nervous watching me. He worries a bit. I just want him to feel as relaxed as possible wherever he’s watching.”

Simon will be at Lord’s this week, the recipient of a precious ticket from his son, who has otherwise struggled to deal with requests.

“Me and Joe Denly were saying that trying to work out who can have your tickets is more stressful than playing in the game, because everyone wants to come, even people that you haven’t spoken to for ages,” he said.

Those who are in attendance will see Leach trying to solve one of English cricket’s most vexing problems – how to dismiss Steve Smith.

While Leach was playing for Taunton Deane, Smith was peeling off twin centuries to go with the 687 runs he scored in the last Ashes down under.

Just as then, Smith has seen off England off-spinner Moeen Ali, whose place Leach has taken.

“Mo sent me a text wishing me all the best,” said Leach. “He said he hopes that I do really well. He’s been so supportive of me coming into this environment and helping me with my bowling.

“I actually told him to be ready for the third Test, so we had a little laugh.”

Now he’s in the side, Leach carries the weapon against which Smith has a supposed weakness. If averaging 34.9 against left-arm spinners doesn’t sound horrific, it is almost 30 runs behind Smith’s career average of 63.

“I’m excited to be here,” said Leach. “I feel like I have nothing to lose and a lot to gain. I’m going in with the attitude that I will do what I do, try to do it really well and see where that takes me.”

And does that involve getting Smith out?

“Getting everyone out.”

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