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Jack’s dream comes true in Sri Lanka - by Vic Marks.

Jack Leach was an integral element of England’s recent series win in Sri Lanka.

Who better to reflect on Jack’s exploits than a a former Somerset and England spinner?

Vic Marks played for Somerset from 1975 to 1989 and also represented England in six Tests and 34 ODIs.

We asked Vic for his thoughts on Jack and here is what he said:

Picture the scene. We are in Galle, near the bottom of the teardrop that is Sri Lanka. It is November and Jack Leach is bowling in his second Test match for England. Already he has taken the important wicket of Kusal Mendis, who had been dismissed in classical style, caught at slip off a ball that had turned and brushed the edge of the bat.

Now he is bowling at a lesser batsman, the bowling all-rounder Dilruwan Perera, a useful player at number eight but not one of the heavyweights. Perera drives but he is not quite to the pitch of the ball and the ball flies to extra cover, where a fine catch is taken. Leach celebrates as if he has just dismissed Virat Kohli, rushing jubilantly towards the fielder and he is shouting, “Caught Buttler bowled Leach. Caught Buttler bowled Leach”.

This was a dismissal Jack had dreamt about when he and Jos Buttler were playing for Somerset Under 11s all those years ago. “To have that dismissal in the book is special for me and hopefully for him as well”, said Jack afterwards (and, of course, it was as Jos later confirmed).

These two were teammates and good friends all through the years playing in Somerset age group sides though their appearances in the first team were limited since Jos left the club in 2013. This was their first appearance together since then and that dismissal of Perera crowned the occasion.

“Hopefully there will be more games together with England”, said Jack afterwards before adding mischievously “and – who knows? – Somerset. I’m working on that. That dismissal means a lot to me and to a lot of people back home”.

There would be more dismissals for Leach as the series progressed. In the next Test in Kandy, Jack registered his first five-wicket haul in Test cricket in the second innings as England secured a narrower victory to clinch the series with a match still to play.

After all those setbacks – stemming from quibbles about his action, breaking his thumb just before the Test series against Pakistan in 2018 and then suffering from concussion when hit on the head against Surrey – Jack was settling into a vibrant England team, becoming as popular and respected there as he has been for years in the Somerset dressing room.

And he was kept busy. In the second Test in Kandy Jack found himself opening the batting for England in the second innings – an unlikely scenario but there was only one over left in the day’s play. Then he opened the bowling alongside Jimmy Anderson.

His experience of bowling on turning pitches, gained at Taunton over the last few years, was proving invaluable to Joe Root and his team.

Presumably the letter thanking Somerset for their contribution to England’s success on the Sri Lankan tour by allowing the odd ball to turn now and again at the Cooper Associates County Ground is stuck at the bottom of a postbox somewhere.

Vic Marks is the cricket correspondent for The Observer and a member of the BBC Test Match Special team.

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