England face another injury blow with Jack Leach a doubt
England face another injury blow with Jack Leach a doubt for Sri Lanka tour as spinner suffers from calf problem
- The loss of Mark Wood’s extreme pace is a blow to the bowling plans for the tour
- Jofra Archer is already ruled out due to a troublesome elbow problem
- But Jack Leach is viewed as the fulcrum of the attack given the conditions
- The Somerset left-armer picked up the calf niggle after the South Africa tour
England have a potentially more significant injury issue than that of Mark Wood for the tour of Sri Lanka with senior spinner Jack Leach dogged by a calf problem.
While the loss of Wood’s extreme pace is a blow to the bowling plans for the two-Test tour, particularly given the absence of fellow crocked fast bowler Jofra Archer, Leach is viewed as the fulcrum of the attack given the anticipated spin-friendly conditions.
The Somerset slow left-armer picked up the left calf niggle after returning from the tour of South Africa midway through the Test series, having failed to return to the physical levels required for international selection following a wretched catalogue of illness.
Jack Leach is viewed as the fulcrum of the attack given the spin-friendly conditions
It led to the 28-year-old bowling in the nets at both the ECB’s Loughborough academy and his county base at Taunton this week in a bid to prove his fitness.
An England spokesperson told Sportsmail they remained confident Leach ‘would be on the plane on Monday night’ but the development casts doubt on whether any of the spin triumvirate who claimed a combined 48 of the 60 wickets taken in the 3-0 whitewash in Sri Lanka 16 months ago will feature this time.
Leach contributed 18 of those, the same number as Moeen Ali, while Adil Rashid chipped in with 12. Moeen and Rashid both made themselves unavailable for selection earlier this month.
That leaves England with the 10-cap Leach, his county colleague Dom Bess, who impressed in doubling his Test appearances to four in the recent 3-1 win over the South Africans, and the uncapped Lancashire leg-spinner Matt Parkinson as the frontline options for this tour.
Mark Wood has been ruled out of England’s two-Test tour of Sri Lanka with a strain injury
Behind them, county cricket’s spinning cupboard looks bare. Liam Dawson, the most obvious like-for-like replacement for Leach, claimed just 10 Championship wickets at 53.8 runs apiece last summer for Hampshire.
England are optimistic it will not come to that and with the first Test in Galle not starting until March 19, there is scope to be cautious with Leach’s return to action. Two warm-up games precede the short series.
Equally, however, he has not played for more than three months due to his ailments – a struggle to recover after contracting sepsis on the tour of New Zealand in November was followed by a bout of gastroenteritis in South Africa. As a sufferer of Crohn’s disease, Leach has a weak immune system.
So those matches would represent a good opportunity to put his stamina to the test in hot and humid conditions as well as groove his bowling before a series in which he has been primed for a lead role.
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