Raise your glasses: Jack Leach’s three silliest innings

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As a bowler, Jack Leach is not at all silly. He is diligent, consistent and reliable, none of which are silly qualities. And because he is first and foremost a bowler, this encourages the notion that Leach is somehow not a silly cricketer, which is entirely incorrect. Give Jack Leach a cricket bat and there is a pretty decent likelihood he will bring you some very high level silliness indeed.

When we think of silly batting, we tend to think of… well, let’s be honest, we tend to think of Shahid Afridi and Shahid Afridi alone. (Here are five fantastic, nonsensical or terrible innings that together explain the eternal appeal of Shahid Afridi as a batter.)

If you were tasked with naming a second silly batter, you’d still probably come up with someone Afridi-like, or who at least displayed Afridi-esque qualities. Someone like Stuart Broad, say.

But there is more than one way to be a silly batter, as the old saying goes. Cricket is a complex, nuanced sport. Sometimes silliness smacks you in the face; sometimes silliness has a big old swish at your face, misses by a foot and gets stumped; and sometimes you look in the mirror and realise that silliness smacked you in the face at some point earlier in the day and you didn’t even notice.

These, to us, are Jack Leach’s three silliest innings, in escalating order of silliness.

3. 41* v West Indies in 2022

Remember England’s red ball reset? Looking back, this amounted to a three-Test tour of the West Indies that began with Joe Root saying, “I don’t want this to sound like a development tour at all but…” and ended with him stepping down as captain.

Suppose it was a reset really.

Root’s last match in charge was in Grenada. It was shaped by two colossal England batting collapses, the first of which set up this particular gem.

Alex Lees and Zak Crawley successfully got through the first 12.1 overs, but a couple of hours later the score read 67-7 before Leach then walked out at 90-8.

10 overs later, it was 114-9, at which point Leach and Saqib Mahmood somehow delivered a 90-run partnership.

Our view at the time was that it was classic tail-end cricket, characterised by, “top shots, drops, byes and liberal use of the verb ‘squirt’ by the commentators.”

Leach’s contribution was, as you’d expect, the more controlled of the two. But there is a magic in this method of his; a black hole gravity that seems to draw madness towards it.

It’s often said that Leach supports his partners, as if he’s the one who’s responding. But it seems to us that the relationship is frequently the other way round; that it is Leach who somehow imbues the guy at the other end with qualities he doesn’t ordinarily possess.

Because really, the only thing weirder than Leach’s unbeaten 41 was Mahmood top-scoring with 49 in his first Test innings – still to this day his highest first-class score.

And the fielding side can clearly be Leach-affected too. Here, the West Indies – bowling at numbers 10 and 11 with barely 100 on the board – for some reason cycled through seven bowlers in 16 overs.

Leach had more to offer though. He also delivered England’s third-longest effort in the second innings – 55 balls. He used them to score all of four runs.

2. 92 v Ireland in 2019

Without the use of a heavily-modified Delorean, Olly Stone was unaware of what could be achieved in a last wicket partnership with Jack Leach (who was this time batting at 11). This is perhaps why, when Stone was dismissed for 19 off 18 balls in England’s first innings, he was merely the second-highest scorer, a squirt to third adrift of Joe Denly’s benchmark 23.

Poor blameless Leach was left stranded on 1 not out.

This will not stand,” concluded England and therefore invited Leach to open the innings second time around.

Now, there were certain factors that go some way towards explaining that decision, but before we get to those, can we please first acknowledge that such a move is still, nevertheless, ABSOLUTE MADNESS.

It is a Test match, you were rolled for 85, so you ask your number 11 to face the first ball second time around?

It happened because there was just one over left of the first day of the match when England were obliged to bat again and Jason Roy didn’t fancy it. Even that adds a peculiar detail though because it means Leach batted at number 11 and number 1 on the same day.

He’d also opened the batting for England before – at Pallekele, in his his third Test match, when he was dismissed for 1. But does that back story actually diminish the insanity or increase it? It’s one thing to ask a guy who averages roughly 11 in first-class cricket to open the batting in a Test match. It’s quite another to ask him to do so repeatedly.

From here, there were two main routes to accentuating the silliness:

  1. Being clean bowled first ball
  2. Securing victory by becoming top-scorer in the match

Having spurned the easier and more obvious option, Leach found himself committed to the second option and duly delivered, becoming one of only three players to pass 40 in the entire game.

He even got as far as thinking about not thinking about a hundred.

“I was telling myself not to think about it, which probably means I was thinking about it,” he said.

Finally, as a bizarre footnote to this one, we noticed that Leach faced that first over without glasses but then came out the next day and batted with them on.

Are they old ball glasses? Does he not wear them on Wednesday evenings? Are they insured, but only for one Test innings per day?

1. 1* v Australia in 2019

It’s an obvious point, but one worth making, but without Jack Leach there could be no Ben Stokes at Headingley in 2019.

Now we’re not saying that Leach was crucial to Stokes’ presence. Even if Leach was the one who physically drove him to the ground each morning, we’re pretty sure he could have found alternative transportation had the spinner not been available.

One way or another, Stokes would still have been there, at the ground, in that year. What we mean is that his famous Ashes innings could not have happened without his final batting partner and indeed would not have been quite the same thing had Leach’s contribution taken a different form.

First of all, the bare facts: England were nine wickets down and still needed 73 to win. England won. Leach scored one run.

Next, the circumstances: With nine wickets down, every single delivery can potentially be the final one. Tension is therefore already at a high point even before you take into account that one of the guys batting now is, by definition, the worst batter in the entire team.

Nine-wickets-down jeopardy is the greatest sporting jeopardy of all precisely because someone involved is so vulnerable and ill-equipped.

On this occasion, Leach was that batter and his feats therefore have to be scaled accordingly. Obviously Leach’s single run doesn’t outweigh the 74 scored by Stokes, but at the same time the all-rounder has spent a lifetime shaping himself to defy bowlers and withstand pressure when he bats. Leach, in contrast, rose to the occasion from a much lower starting point.

Finally, the nitty-gritty: 16 balls studiously seen off before scampering his one and only run to bring the scores level.

He did some other running too. Four balls before his run, he played a key role in one of the greatest non-run-outs of all time.

Stokes reverse-swept and Leach set off running. Stokes did too, but then realised he’d picked out a fielder.

Entertainingly, this is how he indicated to Leach that he should not in fact attempt to complete the run after all.

By doing this…

… and then this…

Textbook ‘no run’ signalling there, we’re sure you’ll agree.

Leach duly whirled around and ran back again.

This is how far short he would have been at the crucial moment, had the ball been where it should have been (in Nathan Lyon’s hands) rather than where it actually was (three metres behind him).

Incredibly silly, fully hilarious and – not exactly a small thing, this – just about the most exciting thing you will ever see in sport.

At Headingley in 2019, Jack Leach ducked, blocked and cleaned his glasses.

He saw England home.

This really was one titanically silly innings.

About this article

It used to be that we couldn’t find anyone who wanted to publish features like this. That shouldn’t have been any great issue considering we run an independent cricket website – except that we couldn’t really find or justify the time spent writing such a thing for King Cricket either.

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  1. I rea;;u enjoyed this, thanks

    (You’d better not fix that typo now or I’ll end up looking rea;;u silly)

      1. One of the singular disadvantages, in my experience, of typing a;; my comments with my nose.

    1. We were wondering how long it would take for that to make it into the comments section.

      Bit of an indictment of Monty that we saw he was trending and then our initial reaction was, well, that could have been worse.

  2. One of the wonderful things about this website is the peculiar and life-affirming ways it can trigger memories.

    The 1* innings at Headingley I remember oh so clearly. Daisy gardening, unable to watch. Me also unable to watch at first and then unable to take my eyes off it on the TV, calling out a form of “test-match-behind-the-sofa” commentary for Daisy’s benefit, and that of the uninterested next door neighbours.

    The 92 at Lord’s, I was trying to remember who I was with and what I might have been munching as the innings unfolded at the start of Day 2. Again, this website provides:


    Was that match really nearly five years ago now? Oh dear!

    1. Delighted to hear that it’s not just us who uses the King Cricket search function in lieu of an actual working brain memory.

      1. I tend to describe my Ogblog as “the fifth emergency service” for that very reason. I guess that makes King Cricket the sixth.

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