Former England spinner Graeme Swann believe that England will win 2023 Ashes if Jack Leach suitable and available.
The controversial 2023 Ashes ended in a draw with both teams winning two Tests each. Jack Leach, England’s leading Test spinner, had to miss the entire series after suffering a stress fracture in his back.
He summoned Moeen Ali coming out of retirement, the latter injured his finger in the first Test and had to miss the second before returning to play the final three matches of the series.
Swann told the Daily Mail that England would have won the first Test, at Edgbaston, and therefore the Ashes, if Leach had played: “I believe we would have won the Ashes last year if Jack had played in the first two Tests that fairy. Moeen Ali came in and did the best job possible but he didn’t have a red-ball cricket ball under his belt and a broken finger.
“There was no way we wouldn’t have beaten them at Edgbaston if Jack had played. I can’t wait to see him again.”
Australia won the first Test of the 2023 Ashes at Edgbaston by two wickets. In the thrilling climax of day five, chasing 281 for victory, Australia lost the eighth wicket for 227.
With only Pat Cummins and Nathan Lyon around and a target of over 50 runs left, England were unable to finish the job. Moeen’s finger injury meant he was ineffective and Joe Root had to take charge of the bowling in the dying stages of day five. In the end, Cummins and Lyon overcame Australia without losing another wicket.
England then also lost the second Test at Lord’s, despite a heroic innings from Ben Stokes, before bouncing back in the second half of the series. Leach’s presence would certainly have given England more possession and could have, as Swann said, steered them to an Ashes victory.
Leach is fit and ready to take on their next big assignment, the five-match Test series in India starting January 2024. Swann, who is working with the ECB as coach and advisor, said that Leach looked as healthy as ever and was starting to believe in his abilities.
“I tell you, he is as fit as any spinner who has ever played cricket for England,” Swann said. “I can not believe it. He took his shirt off and I thought he was posing for a calendar or something… He was torn to pieces and he did it because he wanted to protect his back as much as possible.
“Jack is now starting to believe that he is a world-class Test bowler and that is what he needs. Probably 80% of the job is trusting yourself when you’re bowling and not panicking or getting nervous.”
Register Wisden Cricket YouTube channel for post-match analysis, player interviews and more.