England have been dealt a huge blow as their primary spinner Jack Leach has been ruled out of the last three Test matches against India. The left-arm spinner sustained a knee injury on the opening day of the first Test played in Hyderabad while stopping the ball at the boundary.
He was then restricted to bowling just four-over spells for the rest of the Test. He sent down 26 overs in the first innings but could only bowl 10 in the second even as England won the Test match by 28 runs. He was subsequently ruled out of the second Test which India won to level the series.
However, with around 10 days between the second and third Test, the visitors had hoped that the cricketer will be fit in time for the rest of the series. But Leach’s knee condition didn’t improve as expected which led to the visitors taking a tough call of sending him back. This is a huge setback for Leach now who recently recovered from a stress fracture that had ruled him out of the Ashes last summer.
ECB also released a statement on this aspect stating that the 32-year-old Jack Leach will now fly back home from Abu Dhabi and work with the medical teams during his rehabilitation. “He will fly home from Abu Dhabi in the next 24 hours, where the England team have been staying ahead of the third Test in Rajkot, which starts on Thursday.
“Leach will work closely with the England and Somerset medical teams in respect of his rehabilitation,” the statement from the ECB read. Meanwhile, England have also decided to not name a replacement in the squad.
The absence of Jack Leach affects England
This leaves them very much thin on experience in the spin bowling department. The trio of Shoaib Bashir, Rehan Ahmed and Tom Hartley will have to shoulder the responsibility with all of them pretty much likely to play in each of the three Test matches depending on the conditions. It is a huge ask given that two of them made their debut only in this series while the other one, Rehan, had played only one Test before this series.
Moreover, with the pitches not being square turners, England might just veer away from one seamer strategy. Mark Wood had played in opening Test while James Anderson replaced him in the second. The latter bowled superbly in Visakhapatnam and might have another bowler to support him in the form of Wood or Ollie Robinson who hasn’t played a single game in this series so far.
England had flown back to Abu Dhabi after the second Test and will be reaching Rajkot for the third Test on Monday (February 12). The third Test is set to commence on February 15 at the Saurashtra Cricket Association Cricket Stadium (soon to be named Niranjan Shah Stadium).
England’s updated squad: Ben Stokes (captain), Rehan Ahmed, James Anderson, Gus Atkinson, Jonny Bairstow (wicketkeeper), Shoaib Bashir, Harry Brook, Zak Crawley, Ben Duckett, Ben Foakes, Tom Hartley, Ollie Pope, Ollie Robinson, Joe Root, Mark Wood