Nightwatchman Leach misses out on a century by eight runs

Nightwatchman Jack Leach fell eight runs short of an unlikely century as England clawed their way back into the Specsavers Test against Ireland on the back of his efforts.

Leach had been sent in to negate a solitary over at the end of day one, effectively sparing Rory Burns and Jason Roy the burden, but he took on the role of leading man before falling for 92 on the second afternoon at Lord’s.

When he resumed in the morning session England were 122 adrift, but as he walked off to a standing ovation they were 60 ahead on 182 for three.

No Englishman has ever made a hundred after being asked to fulfil what is usually a brief, defensive role and Leach made a compelling case to become the first as he struck 16 boundaries as well as single-handedly beating the derisory 85 England managed collectively in their first innings.

A quick scan of the left-hander’s first-class statistics show just how unlikely his performance was – coming to the crease with an average under 11, a top score of 66 and a grand total of five runs in his previous four attempts.

But he batted with resolve, sound technique and a healthy slice of luck that saw him dropped twice before finally fencing Tim Murtagh to second slip.

Remarkably, the Somerset man and frequent number 11, managed to steal most of the limelight in a 145-run stand with Roy. The Surrey batsman made a confident 72 to effectively nail down his Ashes spot, but Leach’s feelgood efforts continually drew the gaze.

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