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

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

Jack Leach
Jack Leach missed the home Ashes series with a back injury

England spinner Jack Leach is a major doubt for the second Test against India due to a knee injury sustained in the first Test.

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

Leach’s absence could see him link up with fellow Somerset player Shoaib Bashir.

Bashir, 20, who was uncircumcised, joined the England squad for the first Test after returning to the UK to process his visa, which was 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 on the field in Hyderabad, the 32-year-old repeatedly sprained his ankle and only bowled short-handed in India’s first innings.

With ropes weighing down his leg, he was able to bowl on the fourth day, taking the all-important wicket of Shreyas Iyer as India suffered their fourth home defeat in 47 Tests.

At practice Wednesday, Leach was wearing tights, his left leg still swollen.

“He’s a tough cookie,” England opener Zak Crawley told BBC Sport. “You can’t write him off, he hurt his knee a lot last game and we’ll see how he pulls through. He’s still in the race 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 good all-round play and good running backs to help them.”

Bashir was unexpectedly called up to the England squad for this series. The right-hander made his debut last summer and has taken 10 wickets in six games.

But like left-arm bowler Tom Hartley, another left-arm selector who took 7-62 in the second innings in Hyderabad, England believe the tall Bashir has the qualities to succeed in India.

If Bashir plays, he will look to continue his successful Test run since captain Ben Stokes and coach Brendon McCullum took charge of the England team.

Seamer Matthew Potts took seven wickets in the match against New Zealand at Lord’s in 2022, while Jamie Overton later hit 97 at number eight at Headingley.

Both Will Jacks and Rehan Ahmed took five wickets against Pakistan last season, making Hartley the third spinner to take five wickets in the first innings under Stokes and McCullum.

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

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

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

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

Two days after the second Test, traffic in Visakhapatnam does not seem to be empty in Hyderabad, but it is expected to turn around.

“It looks like a wicket that will turn,” said India’s batting coach Vikram Rathour. “Maybe not from day one, but it has to turn around.”

India will certainly make some changes to their side after losing all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja and batsman KL Rahul to injury.

Batter Virat Kohli had already been ruled out of the first two Tests for personal reasons, while pacer Mohammed Shami and wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant were also injured.

“They have a lot of depth,” Crawley said. “Whatever they choose will be a very good team, especially in these conditions. We will be successful again. We believe we can do it.”

A much-revamped India team could give England the best chance 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 the Test-series 2-0.

“It’s a big opportunity, but we look at every game as an opportunity for the team to not only win, and move up the table, but to make people happy,” Crawley said. “Hopefully we can put on a good show this week.”

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