Joe Leach says repeating the consistency shown by Worcestershire throughout the 2023 season, and staying calm through the ups and downs, will be key when tackling the challenge of Division One cricket in the LV=Insurance County Championship next summer.
The all-rounder has just experienced his third promotion at New Road, picking up 48 wickets after also playing important roles when helping Worcestershire go up in 2014 and 2017.
All three campaigns produced pivotal moments, including the 2014 home win over Surrey, forever known as ‘Shantry’s match’ and the memorable 2017 triumph over promotion rivals Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge in Leach’s first season as captain.
Leach points to the win over Leicestershire at New Road, after being bowled out for 83 in the first innings, and the triumph over Gloucestershire at Cheltenham deep into the fourth day as superb efforts this summer.
But he believes that 2023 will be remembered for the solid cricket produced day in and day out and which needs to be followed up in similar fashion in the battle to compete in the top flight.
Leach said: “The three promotions, they’ve all got their own unique characteristics. In 2014, we had Saeed Ajmal for eight or nine games and he made a massive difference. Then there was Shantry’s match, and the emotion of that one-off game.
“Then 2017 was my first year as captain and, although we won a lot of games, we had that patch in the middle where we also lost a lot, before coming back strongly at the end, including the win over Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge.
“But I think this one, with everything that has happened off the field this year, with the guys leaving and stuff like that, as a club and as a group of players and cricket staff, a great deal of satisfaction that we kind of kept the ship together.
“I’ve seen it written and said that it could have gone a different way but that’s not what we do at Worcestershire.
“We’ve had a tight group and managed extremely well by all the leadership, Brett, Alan, Kaddy etc and the guys who are leaving deserve complete credit as well that they were fully committed to make sure we were promoted.”
Leach added: “I think the Surrey game and the Notts one in those two previous promotion seasons, given when they were played at the end of the season, felt a little bit more emotive in terms of sealing promotion.
“This time it has been a lot more of a consistent season in we’ve just played solid cricket throughout. It speaks volumes for the group’s quality over six months.
“Division One is completely about that consistency, and I think just having the experience to know you’ve just got to stay calm.
“We are going to have some really challenging moments, and we are going to have some really good moments.
“But it’s just about being nice and calm and consistent which is what we’ve done really well this year and been a real foundation for our success.
“What helped us to achieve that consistency is how measured we’ve been through good and bad.”
So what were the 2023 highlights for Leach? He said: “That Leicestershire game, when you look back at it with the benefit of hindsight, to flip that on its head was an outstanding effort and speaks a lot about the character of the group.
“Also going away to Oakham and beating Leicestershire there, to beat them twice, had really put us in a great position.
“If you were to ask me what my favourite performance was, it would be Cheltenham, to win so late on day four, and to get 20 wickets there, is probably the one.
“We’ve had some performances where we’ve not been great, had some where we have been, but throughout the season it’s felt like we’ve been there or thereabouts the whole time.”