PAUL NEWMAN: Australia’s calculated and brutal attack on England spinner Jack Leach – who was smashed for 95 runs in just 11 overs – shows England captain Joe Root picked the WRONG team for first Ashes test
- Spinner Jack Leach’s bowling was pounced upon in brutal fashion by Australia
- England cult hero was smashed for 95 runs in 11 overs on day two at the Gabba
- Captain Joe Root is a better bowler than Leach – and should not have picked him
- Australia take complete control of the first Ashes test after Travis Head’s 100
It was brutal. It was pre-meditated. And it was a calculated attack that looks likely to knock Jack Leach out of this Ashes and quite possibly beyond.
The figures tell the sorry tale of England’s spinner in this horror show of a first Test. The man who was meant to bring control while England’s seamers found their legs in the Brisbane heat was smashed for 95 off 11 overs on a second day that confirmed beyond all doubt Joe Root and Chris Silverwood picked the wrong team at the Gabba.
Leach has been here before – and the way he recovered from a mauling by Rishabh Pant in Chennai last winter showed immense character – but this had an air of finality about it, a template for any attacking batter to employ against Leach in any Test first innings.
England spinner Jack Leach badly struggled on day two of the first Ashes Test on Thursday
David Warner in particular led the way for Australia and got after Leach at the Gabba
Significantly, it was David Warner who led the way against Leach for Australia on Thursday, the opener who did not usually hang around long enough during the 2019 Ashes to smash the left-arm spinner because Stuart Broad had already got him out cheaply.
Now Warner, quickly followed by Marnus Labuschagne and even Travis Head, who spent the summer struggling with Sussex but now boasts the third fastest hundred in Ashes history, have got after Leach it is difficult to see a way back for him in this series.
Unless England somehow muster huge second innings runs and give Leach something to bowl with it seems, as far as Australia are concerned, he will always be remembered for that famous one not out at Headingley rather than any impact he made with the ball.
It is difficult to say a way back for the England spinner after he was knocked around on day two
England should not be surprised. They knew how ineffective finger spinners have traditionally been in Australia – Nathan Lyon is an anomaly – and spent the summer seemingly planning to go into this Ashes without a specialist.
Their late change of heart already looks like a mistake, Leach’s lack of parsimony compounded by injury to Ben Stokes that left England’s three remaining seamers under-cooked, over-worked and all but out on their feet by the end of two days of Ashes conflict.
Root has enough on his plate without worrying about being England’s only slow bowling option. But, fact is, he is a better bowler than Leach and has to shoulder any spin load for the rest of the Ashes now to allow England to play to their seam bowling strengths.
Leach’s display shows that England captain Joe Root did pick the wrong team for this Test
The same should apply at home, too. Just as it did last summer, admittedly when England were without Stokes to provide balance, if they want to get back to actually winning Test series, a habit that has eluded them since facing Sri Lanka early this year.
Only in the sub-continent, or unlikely dust bowls, should England turn to Leach again and, with their long-awaited return to Pakistan planned for next winter, this likeable character should still have something of an England future.
It is just that, with Leach unable to contain in the first innings of a Test and not potent enough to bowl teams out in the second, Graeme Swann remains the cricketer most missed from England’s all conquering team that went to the top of the world 10 years ago.
Leach was simply unable to contain a rampant Australia in the first innings of the Test
The wait for the new Swann will go on for some time yet. Dom Bess took four wickets for the Lions against Australia A on Thursday but recent experience tells us he remains some way off being a Test-class operator.
And it was hugely dispiriting that the Lions picked neither of their leg-spinners, the type of slow bowling that can succeed in Australia, in Matt Parkinson and Mason Crane in their international match.
If they are not deemed good enough in red-ball cricket it is difficult to see just who is in England’s bare spin bowling cupboard.
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