LONDON (92 News) - Jack Leach, who played an integral role in England's spectacular run chase against Australia in the third Ashes Test, said that the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup 2019 final had inspired him and given him hope for an improbable win in the Headingley game.
Leach, who came in at No.11 with England still 73 runs behind the 359-run target, shared a pivotal 76-run stand with Ben Stokes to take the hosts to a memorable one-wicket victory
to level the five-Test series. While Stokes took most of the strike during his remarkable 135*, Leach played the perfect second fiddle to him.
He revealed that watching Stokes' Player-of-the-Match performance in the World Cup final inspired him ahead of his Headingley knock. "I was watching the World Cup final as a fan and that showed that anything is possible," Leach said. "Ben Stokes was at the centre of that as well. Maybe Ben Stokes has to be at the centre of all things that are possible. He was just unbelievable.
"Obviously when I first went in, he was going to have a lot of the strike, being ready to run two, and I just broke it down into the balls that I had to face. It was a special feeling," he told Sky Sports
. "Stokesy – unbelievable, like nothing I've ever seen before. The crowd – insane. To be part of that at the end was an incredible feeling."
The bespectacled Leach formed a special connection with the supporters, who warmed up to his action of wiping his glasses clean regularly through the innings. "It's nice to have that," admitted the 28-year-old. "It's probably because I look like a village cricketer out there, in my glasses and with the bald head.
"Maybe people think 'that could be me', because all the others look pretty professional. I just had to make sure they were clean every time I was facing up. I would really regret it if they had been smudged and I'd got out, then the cameras zoom in on the glasses and they say, 'he didn't clean his glasses'. I just had to stay calm and do the job at hand."
I thought I'd be watching the Ashes at home.
Leach came into the series after a match-winning performance with the bat in the one-off Test against Ireland. Despite that, the presence of Adil Rashid and Moeen Ali made Leach an uncertainty for the Ashes series. However, with Rashid nursing a shoulder injury and Ali struggling with loss of form, Leach came into the XI in the second Test at Lord's, where he claimed four wickets. He retained his place at Headingley, and ended the Test with one of the most memorable knocks by a No 11 in the history of the game.
"I probably thought I'd be watching the Ashes at home," he said. "But I wanted to be ready to play and not presume anything. Now my opportunity has come about so I'm trying to make the most of it."