Jack Leach will become the third player to leave England's tumultuous tour of South Africa, having failed to fully recover from two serious recent bouts of illness — including the life-threatening condition sepsis.
The spinner suffered from the blood infection on England’s recent tour of New Zealand and was hospitalised for days.
He was then among the worst affected by the gastroenteritis and ’flu bug that swept through the camp in the early part of the current tour and was quarantined for a week at the team hotel in Johannesburg.
Aged 14, Leach was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease, the bowel condition that weakens the immune system.
All this has taken a significant toll on Leach, who has been working closely on this tour with Mark Saxby, England’s long-time masseur who recently was given more responsibilities relating to players’ mental health and wellbeing.
Leach became a cult hero last summer for his 92 as nightwatchman against Ireland and his iconic one not out alongside Ben Stokes at Headingley, but it has been a troubled winter.
He has not bowled in anger since the first Test against New Zealand in November.
The left-armer has struggled to keep up since returning to training and it has now been decided that he is best off returning to England on Thursday to recuperate ahead of the two-Test tour of Sri Lanka in March.
England head coach Chris Silverwood said: “It has been an unfortunate time for Jack with illness and since the series in New Zealand he hasn’t been able to get 100 per cent fit.
"This has hampered his preparation in South Africa and despite his best endeavours he is not in a position to make himself available for selection for the final two Test matches.
“He is a great lad to have around and his infectious personality and popularity will be missed. However, his focus has to be getting himself better and receiving the optimum levels of recovery and treatment, which is best served back in England without distractions.
“I have no doubt that he will return to full fitness in the medium-term and hopefully he will recover in time for our tour of Sri Lanka in March.”
Leach joins Rory Burns (ankle ligaments) and James Anderson (broken rib) in being forced off a tour that has thrown constant challenges at England.
Leach will not be replaced, as England already have two other spinners on tour. Matt Parkinson was named alongside Leach in the original party, while Dom Bess was called up during the height of the illness and put in a very solid performance at Cape Town.
He looks set to keep his place on Thursday at Port Elizabeth, where England will hope to take a 2-1 lead in the four-Test series.
It is of vital importance to England that Leach is back for the tour of Sri Lanka. England secured a fine 3-0 series sweep there just 14 months ago, with the beautifully-balanced spin trio of Moeen Ali, Adil Rashid and Leach sharing 48 wickets.
If Leach was unavailable, it would be a blow for England’s hopes of picking up vital World Test Championship points.