Jack Leach reflects on enthralling Ashes battle: 'Nathan Lyon came over and said, "How many beers do you owe me?" I think I owe him a lot'
England’s Test vice-captain, Ben Stokes, after being England’s most valuable player in the World Cup and the Ashes, is taking the rest of this season off. So are England’s captain Joe Root and the one-day vice-captain Jos Buttler, who now might be wondering why they added to their packed England schedule by going to Australia for the Big Bash at the start of the year.
Looking ahead to England’s next series in New Zealand next month, Stokes said: “Between now and then, it is going to be very quiet for me cricket-wise. I think my pads might already be in the bin!”
However, England’s left-arm spinner Jack Leach still has unfinished business at Somerset, who have never won the County Championship. They are top, but his place is being occupied by the left-arm spinning all-rounder Roelof van der Merwe.
Leach became a cult figure when he followed up his 92 as nightwatchman in the Ireland Test with probably the most famous single ever scored – albeit a slightly involuntary single. Stokes from the non-striker’s end was bearing down on him like a bull at Headingley and Leach had no option but to respond.
“The support for me has been something I didn’t think I’d ever experience,” Leach said with his engaging openness. “Maybe it’s because of my batting, but I think it’s mainly because I’m bald and have got glasses. The way the public have warmed to me is something very special and I don’t take it for granted. I can’t thank them enough.
“When I was batting at the end [in England’s second innings of the fifth Test] and one section of the crowd started singing, ‘Stand up if you love Jack Leach!’ and then another section started as well, I just thought, ‘What is going on?’
“Nathan Lyon came over and said to me, ‘How many beers do you owe me?’ I think I owe him a lot.” Australia’s off-spinner was referring to that split-second at the end of the Headingley Test when time stood still, and Leach seemed to do so as well. Sent back by Stokes, he would have been stranded – and Australia would have won by one run – if Lyon had not dropped the throw-in and missed the run-out chance.
“Sport is fickle and I guess you have to enjoy the good moments and not get too down about the bad moments. I have had some luck as well. Hopefully you earn that luck through hard work, and I will continue working hard,” Leach promised.Credit: getty images
Leach did not run through Australia’s second innings at the Oval as he might have wanted, and needed Root to chip in with a couple of wickets, but he still finished with four for 49, and 12 wickets in the series at only 25 runs each.
His popularity was not damaged by taking Australia’s last two wickets with consecutive balls, both through catches by his captain, to level the series. “I feel like both dismissals were as much Rooty as me. It’s a nice feeling – to draw the series is something we wanted to do. We are playing in a Test Championship now, so it does mean something and we are happy to get the win.”
When hostilities ended and both teams shook hands, Leach talked to Steve Smith about the incident after the Old Trafford Test when Smith was widely perceived to have mimicked Leach by batting left-handed in glasses.
An all-time great - and Steve Smith 😉— England Cricket (@englandcricket) September 16, 2019
Congratulations on an incredible #Ashes series @stevesmith49. Leachy loves the glasses 🤓 pic.twitter.com/q5mpc8UK1n
“I did think about having a picture with him, getting him in my glasses! He came to me to let me know that it wasn’t about me. I didn’t know whether it was or wasn’t. I was kind of hoping it was, and thought it was a good laugh. Nothing crossed a line, and fair play to both teams for playing in a great spirit.”
Looking ahead to the final Championship round, Leach said: “Somerset v Essex next week, I don’t know if I’ll play yet. I’ve been part of that Somerset season as well so I don’t know. During this series it’s been pretty mentally and physically tiring but I probably haven’t bowled too many overs, not a silly amount. It will be good to go back and try to win the Championship with Somerset because we’ve never won that.”