England Lions in Sri Lanka 2016-17 February 17, 2017

Leach left out for first unofficial Test against SL A

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Jack Leach took 65 wickets in 15 Championship matches in 2016 © Getty Images

Jack Leach, the Somerset left-arm spinner, has been left out of the England Lions team for the first unofficial Test against Sri Lanka A in Pallekele after struggling with his new bowling action.

Leach, the second-highest wicket-taker in Division One of the County Championship in 2016 with 65 at 21.88, was thought by some to be unfortunate not to win selection in the England Test squad that toured Bangladesh and India. But his action was found to be illegal during routine tests at the national performance centre in Loughborough after the season and he was obliged to remodel it before departing on tour.

While Leach initially thought the remedial work had gone well, the pressure of playing in a match situation and for a national side appears to have exposed some unfamiliarity with the new action. He conceded 68 in 14 wicketless overs in the second-innings of the warm-up match against the Sri Lanka Board President's XI - the other specialist spinner, Ollie Rayner, took 3 for 55 from 22 overs by comparison - which led to the tour management going into the unofficial Test with Rayner as the only specialist spinner. Tom Westley and Liam Livingstone will provide spin back-up as required.

The Lions management have stressed that there is no suggestion Leach has been left out due to any fears of illegality with his new action. It is, they say, to provide him more time to groove it in the nets before testing it under the pressure of a match situation. He has not been ruled out of the second match in Dambulla.

While a period of readjustment was probably inevitable for Leach, it may be worth noting his county captain's views towards the end of the season. Chris Rogers suggested Leach "emotionally… still has a bit of a way to go", and suggested he may not quite be ready for international cricket where "the challenges… are a lot more difficult."

The ECB is also painfully aware of the case of another left-arm spinner, Simon Kerrigan, who endured a chastening Test debut at The Oval in 2013 and has never fully recovered. England are keen to ensure Leach has a more robust action and, as a consequence, a more robust sense of confidence, before he is thrust into relatively high-pressure situations.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  •   cricfan69564930 on February 20, 2017, 9:58 GMT

    Gut the rule book...any degree of elbow flex ok

  • Alfers on February 17, 2017, 21:29 GMT

    @Growltiger - I was there too. The only thing that seemed obvious from the boundary was that Kerrigan's bowling wasn't even of club standard. Blaming the captain for his inadequacy is strange.

  • growltiger on February 17, 2017, 20:02 GMT

    Kerrigan was given no support by the captain. I was there, and that seemed obvious from the boundary. But the similarity with Leach is that his action collapsed in the match situation, so he could neither pitch the ball nor spin it properly. Whether he had tried to change his habitual action, or just got nervous, is not public knowledge. However, the point in the story would not be invalidated if it were certain that no change of action had ever been attempted.

  • cricfan101 on February 17, 2017, 19:28 GMT

    Another onions in the horizon. Will be ignored everytime

  • Rishtonian on February 17, 2017, 17:42 GMT

    '..... the fact of the matter is you can't bowl in international cricket with an illegal action'. You shouldn't be able to bowl in any form of cricket with an illegal action. And Kerrigan suffered because he got absolutely sod all support when he needed it from his England captain and the management not because he had to remodel his action.

  • CricketingStargazer on February 17, 2017, 16:39 GMT

    This was always going to be the danger. Truth is that he has been given very little bowling in the middle since his action was remodelled and that is not going to help his confidence, or his recovery at all. Even in the cited warm-up he was one of 8 bowlers who were used, so someone was always going to miss out on taking wickets and in the limited-overs games before Christmas he hardly played at all.

    I just hope that he is able to put things back together before the start of the county season because England's future depends to a large degree on having spinners giving batsmen a searching examination in County cricket before facing Asian spinners on Asian pitches. Right now, batsmen get into the Test side having hardly faced any decent spin at all at county level.

  • Deepfreezed on February 17, 2017, 15:05 GMT

    There you go, this is exactly what Karunarathne does in internationals. Get out without facing 6 balls exposing the middle order. SL selectors need more evidence I am assuming. Random good innings does not warrant repeated very bad failures. I am sure second innings when the match is already lost he will come trough with a 50 like the champ he is.

  • JohnYelton on February 17, 2017, 14:44 GMT

    The headline says that Rayner was preferred to Leach. I fully support giving Rayner a game - he may not have attracted the attention that Leach has, but he is a known, reliable option as a spinner and may well serve England well. The question is why they didn't field both. 4 seamers and 1 spinner does not seem the right mix for a match in Sri Lanka. This match is probably not as high pressure as a first division County Championship game, so what is there to lose? Incidentally, Rayner had to remodel his action some years ago. It can work - on the other hand some bowlers disappear for ever afterwards.

  • talgeri on February 17, 2017, 12:29 GMT

    ECB should send Leech to Bedi to iron out the small issues.What were the umpires doing all last summer? They did not find issues with his action.Whenever the going is good the ECB has to meddle and restart things or reinvent the wheel. Asking Westley and Livingstone to bowl spinners is following what the senior team is doing with Moen, ECB will never learn.If 5 fast bowlers are good then so be it.

  • lemon45 on February 17, 2017, 12:09 GMT

    "appears to have exposed some unfamiliarity with the new action" So it could just be that he had a bad day in the warm-up game? Clearly if you start bowling with a different action, no matter how small the change is, it's going to take a little bit of time to get used to it and be confident it's working well. I'm sure he'll get the opportunities to do that before the start of the season and hopefully he can have another good year.

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