Jack Leach. (ICC – Twitter)
Englishman Jack Leach was left to speculate about the “stupid game” after strangely grabbing Henry Nichols’ goal on the opening day of the third test against New Zealand in Heddingley.
The career of left-handed spinning was marred by illness, injury, inconsistent selection and even a concussion received while chasing the ball to the limit in the first test of this three-match campaign at Lord’s.
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So it may have been a lucky moment and it came the day after his 31st birthday.
Nichols, after tea, drove hard on Lich, only to have the ball ricochet off the bat of non-attacking Daryl Mitchell and gently turn to Alex Liss in the middle.
“It was incredible, I’ve never seen anything like it,” Leach told reporters after Thursday.
“I didn’t even know if it was allowed, but I’ll take any wick I can get. You get enough not to go your way. It was very unlucky for Nichols, but very lucky for me.”
If it was a bonus wicket, there was no denying the skill with which Leach hit his first ball of the day to make Will Young lbw turn and straighten.
Leach, given the contrast between his wickets in an economic return of 75 for 30 overs, added: “It’s a stupid game, isn’t it? That’s what made me think it was a stupid game we play.
“I like it because there are two wickets written on the board, but I don’t like dismissal.”
New Zealand coach Luke Ronchi agreed with Leach’s success in sports fashion, but suggested that Nichols might have otherwise experienced the unusual end of 19 of 99 goals.
“I like things that you can always say you were there at the time, and if you exclude those factors from the game, it can make things pretty boring,” Ronchi said. “Unfortunately for Henry, it’s his death. Afterwards we gave him a little space.”
England, who have already played New Zealand 2-0 and want to end the series with a clean sweep, got three wickets before dinner after losing a throw in seemingly perfect batting conditions, and Stuart Broad struck two times in the absence of an injured spearhead and long new ball partner James Anderson.
But the Black Caps, a year after beating India in the first World Cup final in Southampton, recovered to 225 in five on the stumps thanks to a continuous 102-head clash between Mitchell and Tom Blandell.
Their third-century booth from the series followed alliances priced at 195 at Lord’s and 236 at Trent Bridge.
Mitchell will now be looking at his third hundred in the campaign if he recovers to 78 who didn’t come out.
“I think mentally he’s just positive in what he’s trying to do,” Ronchi of Mitchell said. “He knows his style of play and the game plan, he sticks to it and trusts it.”