England named unchanged team to face New Zealand as Jack Leach recovers for second Test

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 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

England will take an unchanged team into the Second Test against New Zealand in Nottingham tomorrow, with Jack Leach passed fit to play after suffering concussion on the first morning of the opener at Lord’s.

England lead the three-mtach series 1-0 after Joe Root’s sensational century took them to a thrilling win on Sunday in Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum’s first game in charge.

Leach suffered head and neck injuries in the sixth over when haring after a ball to save a boundary. After a long delay, Leach was taken from the field and showed symptoms of concussion. He was immediately withdrawn from the match, with Matt Parkinson becoming England’s first concussion substitute in Test cricket.

Leg-spinner Parkinson had been readying himself for a break in the Lake District but rushed to Lord’s to join the match from the second day. He took the final New Zealand wicket to fall to get off the mark in Test cricket.

England have recalled Leach at the first opportunity, however, with the benefit of it strengthening the tail.

"It was [an easy decision]," said Stokes. "It was pretty unfortunate what happened to Leachy last week at Lord’s, but he’s pulled up well this week and it was pretty straightforward once we knew he was fit to play."

Leach has a long history of concussion. In 2014, he slipped in his bathroom and was ruled out for two months, then in 2018 he was hit on the head by a Morne Morkel bouncer, leading to another spell on the sidelines.

He has followed cricket’s graduated return-to-play protocols. On Tuesday, he bowled to an empty net before joining the squad in Nottingham, and he stepped things up yesterday by batting for the first time. Today’s training session was the first time he had bowled to a batter.

A green-looking pitch brought Craig Overton into the selection conversation, but skipper Stokes is fit to bowl, so a fifth seamer seemed excessive.

Stokes provided a brief scare at training yesterday when he appeared to have pain in his ribs during a short bowling stint, but is fine to play a full part from No6 and as a fourth seamer. The three frontline seamers — James Anderson, Stuart Broad and Matt Potts — are all fit to go again.

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

It is likely that the three players omitted — Parkinson, Overton and Yorkshire batter Harry Brook — will return to their counties to play in the Championship when it resumes on Sunday.

New Zealand seem likely to make two changes. Colin de Grandhomme has been ruled out for the remainder of the series with a heel injury, with Henry Nicholls set to return from injury at No5. That would see Daryl Mitchell and Tom Blundell, their best batters at Lord’s, drop a place down the order to six and seven respectively.

Mitchell can provide some of the overs De Grandhomme would have bowled, but his absence is likely to see spinner Ajaz Patel, who bowled just two overs (costing 22 runs) at Lord’s, dropped. Neil Wagner is favourite to return.

Meanwhile, the ECB were today expected to announce that James Taylor, the former England batter, will leave his role as head scout.

Taylor joined the England set-up in 2018 as a selector under Ed Smith, and was moved to his current role when Smith’s role was made redundant last year. Rob Key, the newly-installed managing director of men’s cricket, is in the process of reinstating the role of national selector and tweaking the selection structure.

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