Worcestershire CCC Club Captain Joe Leach is fit and hungry to resume his first team career after an 11-month absence through a stress fracture of the lower back.
Leach says he has “ticked every box” in a meticulous rehab programme since suffering the injury in a Royal London One-Day Cup encounter against Warwickshire at Edgbaston last June.
The 28-year-old has worked in harness with the expert eye of Ben Davies, Head Of Sports Science And Medicine, and Strengthening and Conditioning Coach, Ross Dewar.
Leach has gradually built up his match fitness via a combination of club cricket with Shrewsbury and Second Eleven matches for the County during the past few weeks.
Now he has his eyes on a return to action in a career which had brought him 193 County Championship wickets from 2015 to 2017.
He said: “It’s great to be fit and bowling again and credit and thanks to Benny (Ben Davies) and Ross (Dewar) for that.
“It’s been a long hard slog. It’s been 11 months to the day since I trudged off at Edgbaston in that 50 over game and could hardly walk before the scans confirmed the worst fears.
“It’s been a long hard road, some demanding sessions and days when you feel like you are never going to get back out there but it’s nice to know it’s all worth it in the end and thankfully we are getting there.
“I’ve worked really hard on my rehab and we’ve been pretty meticulous and ultra professional in making sure we ticked every box even to the point on Saturday for Shrewsbury that I went back out after the game to bowl three overs in the nets to get my workloads up.
“I can’t wait to get back out there with the lads again.
“You tick off little milestones like the first club game and your first second team match but there is nothing quite like when you get back into the first team and being around the group.”
Leach added: “It does make you realise how much you miss it. It is a good opportunity to take stock of where you are at in your career, where we are at a side. It has given me a lot of thinking time, time to work on my own game as well.
“I know for a fact it has rejuvenated me even though I probably didn’t need rejuvenating but it certainly gives you a new found hunger.”
Leach has enjoyed playing for Shrewsbury where he featured during the early part of his career.
He said: “I’ve absolutely loved it. I love going back there. I enjoyed my time there in the early part of my career and it’s nice to go back and play a few games and kick start the season there.”
Leach has been impressed in his absence with the development and first team breakthrough of the likes of Dillon Pennington and Pat Brown.
He said: “We are in a really good spot. We’ve got a good stock of fast bowlers.
“If they improve and work as hard as they should, and we keep pushing each other to get better, that will stand the club in good stead over the next few years.”