The stars aligned for Jack Leach on Thursday. He wasn’t meant to stick around for as long as he did.
Like most other nightwatchmen, his job was done the evening prior and anything thereafter would have been cream. Instead, he blunted the Irishmen for more than two sessions.
The bespectacled left-hander – oversized red bandanna and all – scored more in the second innings than the whole of England in the first. It was beautiful to watch, as Leach put in a win for cricket’s nerds. There’s still a place for balding cricketers with glasses, thank goodness.
Substantially less suave than cool kid Jason Roy in the personal and professional sense, Leach hardly looked the part throughout their partnership, but delivered the goods regardless. He picked the right day to do so, too, as Wednesday’s spicy deck gave way to a bit of a flat one on Thursday. Tim Murtagh, who bowled like a veritable Glenn McGrath on day one at Lord’s, seemed more dodo than ‘Pigeon’ 24 hours later. The deck died, the temperatures increased – there was no hiding for an Irish attack lacking extra oomph. Leach duly leached and took in a couple of dropped catches while he was at it.
Commentators Michael Atherton and others marvelled at his staying power, which also yielded a 1,000th first-class run for a man that has been to the crease almost 130 times in the format. Ugly but efficient, it’s what one wants from a nightwatchman. A grafter. Entirely satisfying. It reminded one of Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander’s significantly less successful efforts at the top of the knock.
Like many before him, particularly tailenders, he will probably never get another chance to gather a Test ton, especially at Lord’s. It would have been grand if he graduated to three figures. Toward the end, though, luck was running out and one was eventually snaffled in the slip cordon.
Perhaps it’s only right, in the logical scheme of things, that his name won’t go on the Lord’s honours board for batting. He can still nab this treat with the ball, of course.
Whichever way it stacks, his 92 was a proper treat and gladly received by fans of underdog stories and the peculiarities of cricket. It was the right sort of follow-up to Murtagh’s five-for and England’s 85 all out on the opening day. This is a one-off Test before the real-deal Ashes commences next week, after all.
Not a hang of a lot should be read into England’s collective performance, but individual showings like Leach’s deserve merit.
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