With all-rounder Ben Stokes adding balance to England’s line-up, spinner Jack Leach’s chances of playing in the first Test at the Gabba have improved dramatically.
The return of star England all-rounder Ben Stokes is set to improve left-arm spinner Jack Leach’s chances of playing in the first Ashes Test starting at the Gabba next Wednesday.
Not initially chosen in England’s squad due to a finger injury and a battle with mental health, Stokes was added to the touring squad in October.
His ability to bat in the top six and bowl swing will give England’s line-up an extremely balanced look.
Stokes’ presence is also set to aid Leach’s hopes of playing next week, regardless of whether the ongoing rain in Brisbane leads to a Gabba greentop that suits fast bowlers.
“I’m preparing to play, definitely, like I do for every series I’m involved with,” 30-year-old Leach said.
“That’s the best way to go about it – prepare to play and be really disappointed if I’m not.
“Stokesy back is a great boost for all of us. He’s such an important player for us.
“It terms of the balance, it really helps things out, and it’s probably good news for the spinning department.”
With Stokes not having played Tests during the England summer, Leach wasn’t picked on home soil, with the most recent of his 16 Tests being in March this year against India in Ahmedabad.
“From the summer, the feedback was that Stokesy not being in the side, not having that all-round option in the top order, kind of made things difficult for me to get in the side,” Leach said.
“Over the summer not playing, I was thinking about this (Ashes) series, so I feel like preparations have been ongoing and now it’s about getting out there and doing it.”
Should Leach play at the Gabba, he’s hoping to emulate Australian off-spinner Nathan Lyon by extracting bounce from the pitch.
“For years I’ve watched Nathan Lyon and he’s very impressive, how he goes about his business,” Leach said.
“How strong his stock ball is on wickets that don’t necessarily offer a lot spin-wise, he’s found ways to extract bounce, dip and all the other things.
“There’s a lot of over-spin from him and those are the kind of things that I’ve been trying to add in, but trying to stick to my strengths.
“You take little bits from everyone you play against.”
Leach has also studied the success of fellow left-arm spinners Keshav Maharaj (South Africa) and Ravindra Jadeja (India) in Australia.
“Definitely looking at those left-armers who have had success is a good thing,” he said.
“Off-spin is totally different. (It’s still) finger-spin, but different parts of the pitch bowling to right and left handers.”