Jack Leach believes Somerset are “not far away” from mounting a winning Championship campaign despite Surrey’s dominance in 2018. Speaking at the club’s media day prior to the season start he also said he never takes his Somerset or England places for granted.
“It’s a league where every team starts on nought,” he says, “and that’s the same for Surrey, Somerset and the other six teams in the division.
“We had a very good season last year and came second – and Surrey had an unbelievable season but can they keep that up? That is the question.
“Look at the last few seasons! Middlesex win the league then go down one year later. Essex came up and won it straight away. So it’s all about (building) momentum.
“We can’t start worrying about what may happen in September,” he adds, “whether we’ll be lifting silverware or fighting relegation. You take every game one at a time, one over at a time, one ball at a time. That’s what we will do and see where it takes us.”
“Hopefully we can do something really special.”
But it’s certainly been a great start for Tom Abell’s team with two wins in the first two games for the second consecutive season. Jack sat out the first game against Kent as Somerset opted to play the extra batsman (which was ultimately a good decision), and he had to wait until Nott’s second innings at Trent Bridge for his first bowl and he didn’t let his team down, taking six wickets to help bowl Somerset to an innings and 8 runs victory. This made all the more impressive because the pitch and conditions were not necessarily favourable to spin. And his attitude and performances all contribute to him being a firm crowd favourite.
“I feel I have a good relationship with the supporters,” he says, “and part of that is I am a Somerset supporter and, if I wasn’t playing then I would be watching….so it’s a dream come true for me to play for this club. It’s very special for me and hopefully for the fans when they watch me.
“Certainly when my name is read out and I am coming onto bowl there is a buzz around the ground, and that excites me. And that makes me want to repay their faith in me with good performances.”
When you review Jack’s short but exciting career to date then one thing becomes obvious and nothing has been handed to him on a plate. Any achievements and career highs have been earned through his ability, hard work, determination and a large amount of tenacity. A few seasons back Leachy found himself the third or fourth spin choice at Taunton, with George Dockrell gaining plaudits in the four-day game and Max Waller the preferred 20-over player. And the club tended to favour signing international class spinners too.
And then, when Jack earned his place, he had to overcome ill-timed injuries and even questions about his action but he kept his head down, kept plugging away and his resilience paid off. What drives such tenacity?
“I don’t know really, you just get on with it,” he says with honesty. “Playing for Somerset is something I wanted from being a young kid. I came here with my Dad…and knew what I wanted was to play here.
“There are always setbacks and I have learnt from mine and I used them to drive me on. They can shape you and make you better, that’s how I see it.”
Jack headed into the new season after a winter back on the international stage for England. He had made his Test debut in Christchurch in 2018, but broke a thumb at the start of the domestic season and his England place taken by club colleague Dom Bess against Pakistan. And then there was the uproar with Adil Rachid’s controversial recall.
“Yes it’s been a great winter,” he recalls. “I had a great time in Sri Lanka being part of that 3-0 win. Obviously what happened in the West Indies was a different side to things when you are not doing so well but it all adds to the experience and I loved being part of it. All of it.”
Jack has worn the Three Lions four times in Test matches claiming 20 wickets at 24.9 with a best bowling of five for 83 in Pallekele last November. He appears to be in the driving seat for a place in the Ashes team this summer but, given all that has gone on before, he remains cautious if hopeful.
“That would be amazing, but there is a lot of time before then,” he admits. “There’s a lot of cricket to be played and a short amount of time can be a long amount of time in cricket so I can only keep trying to put in performances for Somerset and see where that takes me.”
It all seems a million years ago that Jack made his first-class debut in March 2012, ironically playing against Somerset at Taunton for Cardiff MCCU, bowling 41 overs but failing to take a wicket as Somerset amassed 642 for 3 declared. A few months later, in July, he made his Somerset debut in a two-day match against the touring South Africans claiming the much-coveted wicket of Hashim Amla. And it has all moved on from there. Not necessarily to plan but his career is finely poised to achieve so much more.
With the Royal London One Day Cup set to start in a few days’ time Jack hopes to feature in limited overs cricket for Somerset but remains philosophical and gracious to his team-mates.
“We have a really good and successful twenty overs team here. Max Waller has done brilliantly and Roleof van der Merwe the same. I would love to play but not expecting to. But I will just do my best in every game I play whatever the format. If the opportunity comes along then I will take it but, if not, I’ll stay patient and keep working hard.”
So whether playing for club or country the future looks good for Jack Leach. And at the centre of the ambitions of this Somerset boy are hopes for his home county.
“Regarding the County Championship, well we have learnt a lot from last year,” he says. “We have a really good team and we feel we are not far away. We have very good bowling unit – including a great seam attack – and we can achieve whatever we want really.
“So, yeah, hopefully we can do something really special.”