The Ashes | Jack Leach

Cricket

England’s spin-bowling stocks have been labelled a “massive problem” as the tourists race to find a solution ahead of this week’s Adelaide Test.

Jack Leach was belted in the first Test at the Gabba, conceding 102 runs in just 13 overs, with the left-arm spinner labelled “virtually unselectable” in the wake of the nine-wicket mauling.

Speaking to the Wisden Cricket Weekly podcast, former England batter Mark Butcher said Leach was doomed to fail from the very beginning.

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“I would encourage people to go back through the pods through the summer to get an idea of what I think about the way Jack Leach has been handled, and Jack Leach’s role in the England team and Jack Leach’s likely role in the Ashes, and how England have completely and utterly stuffed that up,” Butcher said.

“They’ve messed their own chances of winning an Ashes series up in doing so.”

Leach hasn’t played a home Test for England since the 2019 Ashes, with his three Test matches in the last 24 months all coming on the sub-continent.

He took 18 wickets in two Tests in India earlier this year, but according to Butcher, England selectors shouldn’t have waited until now to find out if Leach could handle conditions like Brisbane, where there’s little turn early on.

“You have to have that. There’s just no way around it,” he said.

“They had to find out if Jack Leach can do that. They decided they weren’t going to do that, he didn’t play, so he then had no Test-match cricket whatsoever from his best-ever performance up until the toughest series that he’s ever going to play in, and then gets thrown in for the first Test against a team full of left-handers on a pitch with no spin in Brisbane.

“And guess what? They decide they are going to come charging at him like the light brigade and smash him out of the park.

“Now they’ve got a massive, massive problem, and it’s a problem all of their own making.”

Former Australian fast bowler Jason Gillespie was another to highlight England’s problem with Leach.

England’s squad contains two finger-spinners, Leach and off-spinner Dom Bess, while leg-spinner Mason Crane was overlooked, having played his sole Test in 2018 in Sydney.

“Australians always have and always will take on finger spin because it doesn’t offer a hell of a lot. The policy is to go hard at it,” Gillespie wrote in his column for the Daily Mail.

“You didn’t have to be Einstein to see that Jack Leach would be lined up to be pummeled. He’s not a big turner of the ball, the Gabba doesn’t have huge straight boundaries, so of course the Australians were looking to belt him.

“If Dom Bess comes in, he can expect the same treatment. I can’t comprehend why wrist spinner Mason Crane wasn’t picked for Australian conditions.”

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