Sunday, June 26

The ballad of Jack Leach: a leaf dragged down the road and into the ashes | England cricket team

TOWhat point in the ledger of brutal and exhausting days, of boundary-testing taunts and spiraling numbers, does a journey from hell turn into something more humane and manageable: a journey from limbo or purgatory, from the uncomfortable underworld of the simply very bad?

English spinners have tended to suffer the highest number of sporting deaths in Australia. Look long term and the realistic goal of these brave lost boys, these gadabouts in Napoleonic uniforms marching single file across the plains, is to avoid being worst boy, the one with the numbers for the quiz questions, the English bowler who defines this four-year-old horror.

On the fourth day of the Sydney test, when England held out, gassed and reeling, but holding on nonetheless, Jack Leach finally took a breath. And Leach has probably found that moment of grace now, or just enough to have a thing of his own along with the bruises and bumps.

At Sydney, Leach took four of 84 in Australia’s second inning, even though he never really offered a sense of control. In his first spell, he had the Australian hitters in two minds, unsure whether to cut him or shove him, as he was throwing too short or too full. But she also had a wonderful moment, the kind of moment that she will treasure and cherish, and place in a jar on the mantelpiece.

Coming back just after lunch, with Australia going 83 out of three, Leach was 6-0-28-1. Earlier, after Leach had lured Marcus Harris to a loose record, Steve Smith had dazzled out of his crease and threw Leach into a wonderful cinematic arc midway through, the take-mark that reminds us of what a wonderful engine. , athlete and The basic cricket specimen is Smith, plus the numbers, the contractions and the squeaks.

Smith was 22 out of 26 by now and sailing. There was a brief delay when Haseeb Hameed, who always seems to be walking out the door with his school tie crooked and clutching toast, found her way into a pair of shin guards.

Leach’s fifth ball was a sliding arm ball. Smith played that strange backward-leaning thrust, shot by a glowing man on the bow of his yacht, missed the ball and watched the trunnions pop open. For Leach, face it a bit, there was an edge of pent-up rage at the celebrations. It is understandable. How much time do you have

The ballad of Jack Leach is a fascinating story. He’s not exactly a victim – Leach has his first center contract now from a career of ups and downs – more of a leaf blown along the road, tossed by conflicting winds back and forth, bravely clinging to his path. He took 28 wickets in six tests in Galle, Ahmedabad and Chennai in the spring and then abandoned it for the entire summer.

This is the level of deep thinking that the brains of England rely on. We’re going to play this guy from the ashes. Let’s put it out for nine months.

Instead, Leach threw 29 championship games between April 25 and July 11, then did not bowling again until late August, and then did not go bowling between September 22 and just before lunch at the Gabba when their captain decided it was the ideal time to play. Push him down the mountain and see if he was ready for the black race.

Jack Leach appeals to Marcus Harris's window
Jack Leach appeals to Marcus Harris’s window. Photograph: Dan Himbrechts / AAP

He has not played well in Australia. There will be criticism of defensive fields at SCG, but the fact remains that Leach kept throwing short and the ball kept getting hit towards the man on the fence. In three tests he has six fields at 53.5 and has gone to 4.3 races.

How bad is this? Well here’s the thing: it’s pretty standard. Four years ago, Moeen Ali and Mason Crane took six wickets at 128 between them. Four years earlier, Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar took 10 at 81.7. Four years before that, Panesar and Ashley Giles took 13 to 49. They all bled to death. Even at the large outlier, 2010-11, Swann’s 15 wickets came to 39.8. What he did so well was offering control, going in 2.72 races and playing a key role in the victory at Adelaide.

So what were we really hoping for? The true story of Leach’s tour has been the same as everyone else’s. You need racing, pressure leverage, games that hit the last two days. A backless, platformless spinning bowler is basically someone who bowls slowly and hopes for the best.

There were other good things on the fourth day for England. Ollie Pope’s porthole maintenance was nimble and nimble. There was even something refreshing in the sound of their eager and joyous conversation, a pleasant change from the silent sadness of Jos Buttler, who bends down for each dance with the gaze of a laudanum-confused poet lying in his attic composing his latest ode to laudanum. death. .

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And there was Leach’s last hurray, two wickets on the slog that leaves him with a hat-trick the next time he plays. When will that be? Dom Bess might get a game in Hobart. And there would be something very Jack, much more the blade falling down that windswept road, if Leach never played again, but ended his career suspended in a hat-trick.

That moment will most likely have to wait until the English summer, when the home crowd can gild it with well-deserved affection from the underdog.

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