Jack Leach missed out on a chance to score a century as a No.11 nightwatchman as the England vs Ireland Test was evenly poised at Lord's. (Image credit: Getty Images)
Jack Leach, the England left-arm orthodox spinner, had only opened once in his Test career during the Pallekele Test against Sri Lanka. Leach was a typical tailender, averaging just under 10 and having scored only two first-class fifties in 80 matches. On the first day of the one-off Test against Ireland at Lord's, England was staring down the barrel having been bowled out for 85 and then conceding a lead of 122. Leach was promoted to open the batting and he survived the last few overs of the day as a night watchman. On the second day, Leach confounded cricket fans as he counterattacked in style and blasted 92, his highest score ever in cricket. Leach's 92 and some valuable contributions from Sam Curran helped England reach 303/9 at the close with Ireland still on top.
Leach was dropped on 72 and on 92 but he failed to capitalise on an opportunity to create history as he departed for 92. Leach, though, became the fifth England player to be dismissed in the 90s as a night watchman. Alex Tudor was dismissed for 99 against New Zealand in Birmingham in 1999. Harold Larwood was dismissed for 98 against Australia in Sydney while Eddie Hemmings was bowled for 95 against Australia in Sydney in 1983. The last person to be dismissed in the 90s was Jack Russell when he was out for 94 against Sri Lanka in Lord's in 1988.
When Leach neared the possibility of nearing a century, Leach admitted that some weird thoughts were crossing his mind. "I know now that the nervous 90s are definitely a thing. You think 'I'm only two shots away' and I was having some weird thoughts. I was trying to tell myself not to think about it which kind of made me think about it. I can't believe it really. I just went out to try and do a job for the team I guess and try and soak up some balls. It probably went a little bit further than I thought it would," Leach said.
Leach and Jason Roy smashed 72 as the duo shared a 145-run partnership for the second wicket. However, a collapse of six wickets for 66 runs saw Ireland claw back in the contest with Mark Adair picking up three wickets followed by two wickets each from Boyd Rankin and Stuart Thompson taking two wickets each. Tim Murtagh, the first innings hero with 5/13, took the wicket of Leach to deny him his moment of glory.
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However, the knock from Leach surprised his father, who was supposed to attend but did not as the record high temperatures at London prevented him from coming. Europe and Britain were reeling under a severe heatwave, with temperatures reaching 39 degrees celsius. Leach said his father could not come due to the weather. "He was going to come but he saw the weather forecast and said it was too hot. I don't think it would have been a good place for him to be today, he could have died! I think it was best he stayed at home in the cool. I gave him my house key and he went over so he's literally been at mine watching the whole time. I'll catch up with him later on," Leach said.
Ireland would be hoping to create history by bowling England out and chasing a target of under 200 to achieve their first-ever Test win.