Ashes diary: Leach opens up on Gabba ordeal as Thorpe rues distraction


espect to Jack Leach, who opened up on a difficult Ashes tour on Australian radio station SEN today.

Leach was taken down in Brisbane, dropped in Adelaide, then tidy enough in Melbourne. He was honest about his nerves and regrets.

“I really found that day at the Gabba difficult,” he said. “I feel much better about it now. I wish I could get that first spell back again.

“I remember being extremely nervous for that game. I had never played Test cricket in Australia, hadn’t played a Test for a while. The lead-up, not much game time, a lot of rain in Brisbane.

“I don’t want to make excuses, but that was the situation. It made me feel particularly nervous. They came extremely hard. I knew they would come hard but going at 10 an over, it was not pleasant. You do learn from these experiences, and I have to use it to make me a better bowler, and I believe I am doing that. Move forward, keep learning.”

Asked what he would change, he pointed to his overly attacking fields, and learning from Nathan Lyon, “who I look up to immensely”.

“Those first few overs, getting yourself into the game, they are crucial overs that I have thought a lot about,” he said. “From there you earn the right to get into your spell and things get a bit easier.

“I was nervous again at the MCG, coming back in after that experience at the Gabba. Those first few overs I didn’t feel like I was bowling well but I had a field that gave me a chance to get into a longer spell. As spinners you bowl overs to feel rhythm, it can take a bit longer to get into our work.

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“I took confidence from that, training has gone well, and hopefully my first few overs here will be good and I will be looking to bowl attacking balls.

“Even if I’m going at four an over early on, being milked with guys on the boundary. Think of it more as a game of chess, having patience.”

Few in the England camp are said to be as fed up with pandemic-era cricket as Graham Thorpe, who is in the frame for the job as Middlesex head coach.

It was little surprise, then, to hear Thorpe speak with some frustration about the team’s Covid situation over the last week. The group – including their young children – have been tested to distraction, seven times in eight days.

England have had nine positive tests, although none among the playing group. Head coach Chris Silverwood is positive, as are two more of his five-strong family. Jeetan Patel, Jon Lewis and their families have now been released from isolation but are not able to travel to Sydney yet. They have to practice “safe living” before rejoining the squad in Sydney.

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“It becomes an unnecessary distraction,” Thorpe said of the Covid protocols. “I do understand it: Australia is in a very different situation. I’d like to think cricket can find a way around it. England have played a lot of cricket as well. A lot of our players have been in these conditions and this environment for a while. Looking after their mental state of mind is very important.

“That’s always been lingering in the back. And that has been distracting. Not knowing if you’re going to be moving on to the next venue. Or if your family is going to be in a hotel room for 7-10 days. It’s very similar with players. The constant testing, day in day out, is a distraction. I’d like to think we could find a better way around it in future.”

Another day of national shame for the proud institution that is cricket in England. Speaking on his and Ben Stokes’s podcast Around The Wicket, Stuart Broad referred to England’s bowling group as “the cartel”.

There has been plenty of talk of bringing our brave boys home. Perhaps, having been infected by this awful Australianism, it really is time to get them out.

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Richie Benaud Media Centre

The media centre at the SCG is among the very best in the world. And, as of today, it has a new name.

Benaud, who died aged 84 in 2015, played for New South Wales for 16 years and made his debut for Australia at the SCG before writing and commentating on so many matches there.

The unveiling of a mural was done by Daphne, Richie’s wife, and contained the beautiful quote: “Cricket has so many meanings to so many Australians. It’s become precisely that, an Australian way of life. And what a life it is. Some would even go as far as to say, marvellous.”

In three days, England Women set off on their own Australasian Odyssey, with an Ashes campaign preceding a 50-over World Cup defence in New Zealand.

With them will be the brilliant Hen Cowen, the communications manager who announced in November that they are trans non-binary. Hen is a quietly significant figure in the game and has appeared on the BBC podcast No Balls hosted by players Kate Cross and Alex Hartley.

Hen is honest and articulate, while Cross and Hartley handle a delicate situation like seasoned broadcasting pros. Well worth a listen.

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