England may rejig attack in Leach’s absence, says Atherton

LONDON (Agencies): England’s lack of spin options may force them into rejigging their bowling attack for the Ashes series against Australia following Jack Leach’s unavailability through injury, former England captain Mike Atherton said.

Left-arm spinner Leach was ruled out of the five-match series on Sunday due to a stress fracture in his back, dealing a major blow to the hosts’ hopes of wresting the Ashes urn.

Although the 31-year-old may not be the biggest name in England’s attack, Leach has bowled the most overs and is the team’s joint highest wicket-taker since captain Ben Stokes and coach Brendon McCullum took over last year.

“They have said that they will announce a replacement in due course, but the decision is not straightforward because of the paucity of spin in the English game,” Atherton wrote in the Times newspaper. “For years now, with the County Championship pushed to the margins of the season, counties have had no incentive to produce or play spinners and the county game has never been so threadbare for quality spin.”

Teenaged leg-spinner Rehan Ahmed, who made his test debut in Pakistan in December, and all-rounder Will Jacks are being touted as replacements and Joe Root’s part-time off-spin could be used more.

“My suspicion is that they may call both Ahmed and Jacks into the squad, to gauge where they are at, but it would be no surprise if they rejigged the balance of their team for the Edgbaston test,” Atherton said.

England were already fretting on Stokes’ dodgy knee, which might restrict his bowling in the opening test at Edgbaston starting on June 16.

Former England spinner Monty Panesar believes England may pick an extra fast bowler and roll out green tracks tailor-made for a seam-heavy attack.

“They may just not even go with a (frontline) spinner for the first test match…” Panesar told Sky Sports. “They may just change the pitch conditions, go with slightly greener surfaces where all the England fast bowlers, especially the seam bowlers, are in the game throughout the whole test match.”