After health setbacks, Leach wants bowling exploits to define career


London (AFP)

Jack Leach is happy to have become an unlikely England batting hero but the left-arm spinner hopes he will be best remembered for his bowling following recent health problems.

Leach has a meagre first-class batting average of 12.47 but last year he made 92 opening the batting as a nightwatchman against Ireland.

He then provided invaluable last-wicket support as all-rounder Ben Stokes saw England to a stunning Ashes Test victory against Australia at Headingley.

But the Somerset bowler has also taken 34 wickets at just 29 apiece in his 10 Tests.

"I'm going to tell people in the pub when I'm older that I opened the batting for England!," said Leach, speaking from the team's training 'bubble' at the Ageas Bowl, the venue for the first Test against the West Indies starting on July 8.

"But I do pride myself on my bowling: that's why I'm picked, to do that. I want to be bowling teams out on the last day, and that's what I want to be remembered for.

"Everyone talks about Headingley and it will be hard not to remember that but I'm working hard at bowling, and batting as well. If I keep being remembered for batting, I can take that."

Leach, who suffers from Crohn's Disease, a condition that inflames the gut, had a dreadful run of illness during England's winter tours of New Zealand and South Africa, with his place as the team's first-choice spinner going to county colleague Dom Bess.

In New Zealand, he was sidelined with sepsis and then fell victim to the sickness bug that ran through the England camp in South Africa.

He returned home, suffered a calf tear but still got back into the squad that toured Sri Lanka only for that series to be called off before the first Test because of the coronavirus.

"If you had the symptoms that I had (in South Africa) now you'd be thinking 'this is definitely coronavirus'. I guess we'll never know," said Leach.

- 'Higher risk' -

"I've spoken to my consultant and doctors and they felt the medication I'm on puts me at a little bit of higher risk, but what I did come through in the winter suggests I can fight things off quite well.

"I'm maybe not as high risk as others on that medication. My Crohn's is under control, which is great for me."

As for life in the 'bubble', the 29-year-old Leach has brought a few home comforts with him to Hampshire's headquarters.

"I've brought a coffee machine, a few books, I'll be on Netflix. I watched Liverpool win the league.

"There's a team area with different games, a golf simulator. The golf course here is keeping the guys busy as well.

"I'm rooming next to Jofra (Archer) and he was straight on to gaming. Wow, it was loud.

"He's got his headphones on so he can't hear anyone else; you can just hear him shouting at people telling them they are rubbish at whatever he's playing."