After recording the first 10-wicket haul of his Test career on Sunday, Jack Leach praised England’s new leadership team of captain Ben Stokes and red-ball head coach Brendon McCullum for boosting his confidence.
Leach has played in 25 international cricket matches, although his career has been marred by injury, sickness (the left-arm spinner has Crohn’s disease, an inflammatory bowel disorder), and poor selection.
Jack Leach Repays Faith Shown By England Management
Leach was chosen for his first Test on home soil in three years at the start of the New Zealand series, and it strangely seemed typical of his luck that he would suffer a concussion while fielding on the first morning at Lord’s.
Matt Parkinson was brought in as a last-minute replacement for that game, but more importantly, all-rounder Stokes and McCullum, who was formerly the captain of New Zealand, always had trust in Leach.
They chose him once more for the second Test, which was contested at Nottingham. Leach contributed to a five-wicket victory there, giving England an unbeatable 2-0 series lead over Test world champions New Zealand.
And they have given Leach, 31, the chance to flourish by assisting him with offensive field settings that make it obvious his primary responsibility is to take wickets rather than merely contain the opposition.
The results of that new strategy were on display during the series decider in Leeds when Leach amassed a match total of 10-166 after scoring 5-100 in the first innings of the third Test and then adding 5-66 on Sunday.
I Think The Biggest Thing Is Having Belief In Myself: Jack Leach
With Ollie Pope (81 not out) and Joe Root (55 not out) bringing England to 183-2 at the end of the fourth day, those wickets helped set the stage for a run chase.
On Monday, the series’ last day, England will need just 113 more runs to accomplish their target of 296 and defeat the Black Caps.
“I don’t know if I thought something like this was possible or not before, probably not,” Leach told reporters.
“I think the biggest thing is having belief in myself and that’s what Ben and Baz (McCullum) have really helped me with. It looks like that’s starting to pay off.
“I am really enjoying working with Stokesy. I say ‘what about putting mid-on back?’ and he just says no. It’s really attacking and I am enjoying bowling like that as well. I’ve never experienced anything like the atmosphere in that dressing room, this positive way of doing things.”
In Leach’s 25-Test career, Headingley has played a significant role. His most famous moment as an international cricketer occurred when he stood steadfastly by Ben Stokes during an incredible one-wicket victory over Australia in an Ashes match three years ago at the same venue.
“Does this feel better than 2019?” Leach said. “At the moment, no. We just need to get the win and then it will be very special,” he added. “It probably hasn’t sunk in but it feels great.”
It’s Been Fantastic To Bat With Daryl Mitchell: Tom Blundell
A 3-0 defeat would be unfair to New Zealand, especially their middle-order partnership of wicketkeeper Tom Blundell and all-rounder Daryl Mitchell, who have combined for four different hundred-stand partnerships in this series.
“It’s been fantastic to bat with Daryl and have those partnerships, it’s just unfortunate a couple of results haven’t gone our way,” said Blundell, who made an unbeaten 88 on Sunday.
“This team has been known as a team of fighters… We’ve got to come out first thing tomorrow (Monday), put a couple of wickets on the score and you never know.”