Jack Leach has ‘learned a hell of a lot’ and thriving for England under Stokes

Leach’s five-wicket haul vital for England against New ZealandStokes is ‘wanting to challenge me in lots of different situations’His work for the winter done – with the ball at least – a weary Jack Leach sat down in the press conference after day four in Wellington and reflected on the progress he believes he has personally made.Leach’s fifth five-wicket haul in Test cricket was vital to England’s cause, shutting down New Zealand’s second innings for 483 all out amid a collapse of five for 27 by the hosts. It was primarily a case of endurance, the 61.3 overs he sent down dwarfed only by the 69.5 mustered on a heartbreaking pitch in Barbados a year ago.Add in the 17 overs, three for 80 first time around, and the fact the two innings were made back to back by Ben Stokes enforcing the follow-on, the left-armer’s fatigue was understandable, and his role as the seam attack ran out of gas significant.“I feel like I have come on a lot,” said Leach, a cricketer who admits his previously fragile confidence has been alloyed by the ever-encouraging captaincy of Ben Stokes.“Stokesy has talked about wanting to challenge me in lots of different situations. I feel I have learned a hell of a lot and things I will take forward – how I prepare, thinking about county cricket and bowling longer spells.”Asked about his captain’s message after sticking New Zealand back in, Leach replied: “He said: ‘give everything you have got. Sometimes it is just hard graft. You have to keep going, give that bit more and enjoy the graft rather than worry about things not happening’.“That was the message – to enjoy being out there, you are playing for England and trying to win a Test match. What we have seen is, the more we enjoy it the better we play. And it worked.”Leach’s returns from five Tests this winter are 285 overs, 25 wickets at an average of 40 apiece. The 31 year-old revealed at the start of this tour he no longer sweat the last of those digits, Stokes having consistently set attacking fields and placed the focus solely on making breakthroughs.At the Basin Reserve, not renowned for aiding the spinners, he admitted to struggling with the winds at times but had a strong sounding board in Jeetan Patel, the England assistant coach who spent the best part of two decades playing for Wellington.“He is always throwing ideas at me and over that period our relationship has really grown,” said Leach. “He is helping me a lot. He is someone who had a very strong action and could keep going, bowling long spells.“His message is: if the opportunities are not there in certain [domestic] games, it is about me doing that in my practice. It’s a really good learning curve from me.” Continue reading…

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