India v England: Jack Leach out of second Test with knee injury

Jack Leach
Jack Leach was at England training on Wednesday, but did not take part
Dates: 2-6 February Venue: Visakhapatnam Time: 04:00 GMT
Coverage: Live text commentary on BBC Sport website and app with daily Test Match Special podcasts on BBC Sounds.

England spinner Jack Leach is out of the second Test against India in Visakhapatnam on Friday because of an injury to his left knee.

His absence could lead to a debut for 20-year-old off-spinner Shoaib Bashir.

“The knock he took resulted in a haematoma,” England captain Ben Stokes said. “Hopefully, it does not keep him out for longer in the series.”

Following the second match in the five-Test series, there is a nine-day break when the England team will travel to meet their families in Abu Dhabi.

Leach sustained the injury while fielding in the first Test in Hyderabad. He was restricted to bowling short spells in the first innings, but was able to bowl 10 overs in the second as England inflicted only a fourth defeat in 47 home Tests on India.

It is the latest injury blow for the 32-year-old, who missed all of the Ashes series in the home summer because of a stress fracture to his back.

“It’s a big shame for us, especially after a long time out of the game with his back,” Stokes added. “Obviously, it’s frustrating but it’s something we’re assessing every day.”

With Leach missing, England could opt for a straight swap with his Somerset team-mate Bashir, who missed the first Test after experiencing a delay in receiving his visa.

England played three frontline spinners, plus the off-spin of batter Joe Root in Hyderabad.

Early indications show the Visakhapatnam pitch could be better for batting, which might necessitate an extra seamer. Mark Wood played the first Test and is thought to be fit for the second, with James Anderson, Ollie Robinson and Gus Atkinson the other pace options.

If that is the case, England would possibly choose between Bashir and Rehan Ahmed, with Tom Hartley already elevated to senior spinner in only his second Test.

Hartley was a left-field selection for this tour, yet bowled England to victory in the first Test by taking 7-62 in the second innings.

Bashir, who has played only six first-class matches, was a similarly surprising selection, but England believe has has attributes to be successful in India.

And Stokes revealed he was first alerted to Bashir’s potential when he saw a video on Twitter (now X) of the then 19-year-old bowling on his first-class debut to England’s all-time leading Test runscorer Sir Alastair Cook.

“I just saw something,” Stokes said. “The height he bowled from, it was very obvious that he put a lot of action, a lot of revolutions on the ball. It was something I looked at and thought ‘this could be pretty good for India’.

“The height he delivers the ball from, the amount of natural variation that he can produce, is a handful out here. I’ve played a lot of games out here, as a batter you know what is hard to face, especially from a spin point of view.”

Stokes shared the clip in a WhatsApp group with coach Brendon McCullum and managing director Rob Key.

The captain also revealed Bashir dismissed him three times in the nets in a training camp in Abu Dhabi and again in training on Wednesday.

“When it came to selection of the squad, there wasn’t too much thought around him because everyone was very, very impressed with what Bash showed,” Stokes said. “Everything we wanted in our spin group was answered by Bashir.”

Stokes is not bowling in this series after having surgery on his own knee issue in November.

However, he will bowl for the first time since the operation in training on Thursday as he builds towards being able to play as an all-rounder in the home summer.

“This trip is a back-to-bowling programme for me,” the 32-year-old said. “You have seen me do a lot of running and that has been part of it.

“Tomorrow is just the start of low impact bowling, get the rest of my body going again and just gradually keep building that up. I won’t be bowling in the game.”

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