Not many associated with English cricket will have enjoyed watching Nathan Lyon torment England during the Ashes, but Somerset left-arm spinner Jack Leach spent his time in Australia closely watching how Lyon went about his work as he continues to push for a Test call-up.
Leach has started to put his learnings into action and the early signs have been promising as he bagged 8 for 110 in the first four-day game against West Indies A, almost conjuring a final-day heist for England Lions who were defending just 106.
His match figures were the best by a spinner for the various guises the England second team has taken over the years, sitting ahead of Graeme Swann’s 8 for 156 against Zimbabwe A in Bulawayo in 1999.
“I feel in a much better place about my game this winter. The Lions training camp in Australia before Christmas was a really tough trip for me, but I learned a hell of a lot playing on those wickets which were totally different again,” he said.
“Watching Nathan Lyon bowl on those wickets in the Ashes, seeing how he goes about things, and trying to take things from that. I changed a few things to try and get a bit more energy on the ball. That’s gone really well, I felt in a good place coming here, and it’s gone well in this game.
“It’s a bit about what I’m thinking in my head, a bit about how I use my body, my front side and my delivery stride and things like that. So I’ve changed a few things, but I’m always changing a few things trying to get better and better. But I probably feel now the most on top of my game I have – it’s just about mentally trying to deliver those skills. So I feel in a good place.”
In late 2016, Leach was forced to remodel his action after testing showed a kink when he was close to being called into the England Test squad in India. He responded by topping Somerset’s bowling charts with 51 wickets at 25.78 last season – to go with a haul of 65 at 21.87 in 2016 – and admitted he thought he had made the Ashes squad when he saw James Whitaker, the England chairman of selectors, calling him.
As it was the call was to say he was on the Lions trip which would shadow the main squad in Australia for the first part of the Ashes. He did play for the main side in their two-day tour match against a Cricket Australia XI in Perth, receiving some harsh punishment in the course of picking up four wickets: he went for 104 in less than 10 overs during a run chase.
Although the issue with his action set Leach back, his continued success in the County Championship since – and now with the Lions – is increasing the clamour for a Test call-up as England continue to struggle in the spin department. The latest bowler to be given a chance was legspinner Mason Crane who made his debut at the SCG last month and has been included for the Test series against New Zealand in March. Crane bowled alongside Leach against West Indies A this week but was used considerable less and claimed just a single wicket.