India v England: Jack Leach doubtful for second Test in Visakhapatnam

Jack Leach
Jack Leach missed the home Ashes series because of a back injury

England spinner Jack Leach is a significant doubt for the second Test against India because of a knee injury sustained in the first Test.

He did not bowl in training on Wednesday as England prepare for the second Test in Visakhapatnam on Friday.

Leach’s absence could lead to a debut for Somerset team-mate Shoaib Bashir.

Uncapped off-spinner Bashir, 20, joined the England squad during the first Test after returning to the UK in order to sort out his visa, which had been delayed.

Leach, who missed the entire Ashes series against Australia last summer with a back injury, was playing in his first Test since June.

After two separate incidents in the field in Hyderabad, the 32-year-old suffered recurring swelling of his knee and was restricted to bowling short spells in India’s first innings.

With heavy strapping on his leg, he was able to bat and bowl on the fourth day, taking the crucial wicket of Shreyas Iyer as India suffered just a fourth home defeat in 47 Tests.

At training on Wednesday, Leach was wearing compression tights, with his left leg still noticeably swollen.

“He’s a tough cookie,” England opener Zak Crawley told BBC Sport. “You can never write him off. He had a sore knee in the last game and we’ll see how he pulls up. At the moment he’s still in contention to play.

“Obviously it would be a shame for Leachy to miss out, he’s a fantastic bowler, but we’ve got good depth. We’ve got a good spin attack and good seamers to back them up.”

Bashir was a surprise call-up to the England squad for this series. The right-armer only made his first-class debut last summer and has taken 10 wickets in six matches.

But like left-arm spinner Tom Hartley, another left-field selection who took 7-62 in the second innings in Hyderabad, England believe the tall Bashir has the attributes to succeed in India.

If Bashir does play, he would look to continue a trend of Test debutants thriving since captain Ben Stokes and coach Brendon McCullum took charge of the England team.

Seamer Matthew Potts took seven wickets in the match on his debut against New Zealand at Lord’s in 2022, while later that series Jamie Overton made 97 batting at number eight at Headingley.

Both Will Jacks and Rehan Ahmed claimed five-wicket hauls against Pakistan last winter, making Hartley the third spinner to claim five wickets in an innings on debut under Stokes and McCullum.

And Kent opener Crawley believes Bashir is “absolutely” ready to play in Visakhapatnam if required.

“He’s a great kid,” said Crawley. “He’s got a lot about him. He knows what he is trying to do with his bowling and he backs himself. I like that and feel like if he got his chance in this series he would go well.”

If Leach is replaced by Bashir, that could leave an England team with three frontline spinners in Hartley, Ahmed and Bashir with only three caps between them.

Another option would be two pick two seamers, leaving a choice between Ahmed and Bashir.

Two days out from the second Test, the pitch in Visakhapatnam does not look as bare as the surface in Hyderabad, but is still expected to turn.

“It looks like a wicket which will turn,” said India batting coach Vikram Rathour. “Maybe not from the first day, but it should turn.”

India will certainly make changes to their side after losing all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja and batter KL Rahul to injuries.

Batter Virat Kohli was already ruled out of the first two Tests for personal reasons, while pace bowler Mohammed Shami and wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant are also injured.

“They’ve got so much depth,” said Crawley. “Whatever side they are pick is going to be a very good team, especially in these conditions. We’re going to have to be at our best again. Hopefully we can do that.”

The much-changed India side could give England an excellent opportunity to take a 2-0 lead in the five-Test series.

India have not lost a home series since 2012 and have not lost the first two Tests at home since 2000, when South Africa won a two-Test series 2-0.

“It’s a massive opportunity, but we see every game as an opportunity for this team to not just win, and move up in the series, but entertain the crowd,” said Crawley. “Hopefully we can put on a good show this week.”

Source: BBC News

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