Wednesday, August 31st, 2022


Joe Leach has completed a decade since making his first class debut, and the Worcestershire all-rounder admits he expected his cricket career to have taken a different route.

Leach is closing in on 400 first class wickets and has been Worcestershire’s talisman with the ball for several seasons, someone with the ability to change the course of a game with a flurry of wickets in quick succession.

But he initially had more designs on becoming a batter who bowled a bit and a superb century against Gloucestershire at Cheltenham during the 2013 season confirmed his potential in that direction.

Leach found it a challenge to obtain the consistency required with the bat in a top-six role, and his career gradually moved into the direction it has pursued in recent years.

The retirement of Alan Richardson, followed by an early season injury to Gareth Andrew, saw Leach take up more of a bowling role in 2014, and 33 wickets helped Worcestershire gain promotion.

A golden spell followed in which Leach picked up 59, 65 and 69 wickets in successive seasons and, after recovering from a stress fracture of the back suffered in 2018, he has continued to strike on a regular basis in addition to making important lower order runs.

Leach said: “I guess I can’t believe how quick the decade has gone. Obviously, time goes way too fast, as we all know, and way too fast for sports people.

“Ten years, obviously very proud to have achieved that long in the first class game.

“You don’t really tend to dwell on these little landmarks while you are playing because you are focused so much on the job at hand. But it is something I am very proud of.

“I also couldn’t guess how the ten years have played out.

“Ten years ago, I probably wouldn’t have said I would have got as many first class wickets as I have and kind of slipped down the batting order.
“It is funny how it has worked out.”

Leach’s first two victims were Surrey duo Rory Hamilton-Brown and current England white-ball opener Jason Roy when playing for Leeds-Bradford UCCE.

He said: “It wasn’t a bad way to start! I can’t say I can remember that much about it. Two guys who have had good careers.

“Did I think I would be a batter who bowled a bit? “Probably. My bowling developed, and 2012-2015 is when my bowling really took off.

“I was certainly more of a batter, to begin with. I think I batted four that game for Leeds-Bradford.

“I probably wouldn’t have seen my career going as it has – but very happy that it has done.

“I guess that bowling more was just a way for me to get into the side. Obviously, early on in my career, I had a lot of dents and setbacks with the bat.

“Bowling-wise, I probably never really had that, and it went from strength to strength, so that’s how it developed.”

Leach admits he has also put a greater emphasis on his batting in recent seasons.

He said: “Since my stress fracture, I’ve really tried to give a lot more time to my batting.

“Also, now, without the captaincy, it really enables me to focus on batting and bowling as major skills and not have to worry about too much else, which is great.

“I’ve certainly invested a lot of time in my batting, and I don’t see myself just as a bowler who can fling the bat down the bottom of the order.”