England are angling for a seventh straight Test victory in Wellington this week, a feat last achieved almost 20 years ago, but spinner Jack Leach is not motivated by emulating past glories.
The summer of 2004 saw Michael Vaughan’s side notch up their own magnificent seven, paving the way for the following year’s generation-defining Ashes win.
A scan of the scorecard from the last of those matches offers a reminder of how long it has been since an England team enjoyed such a winning streak – opener Marcus Trescothick is now the batting coach, number three Rob Key is the current director of cricket and paceman Steve Harmison is covering the current tour as a radio commentator.
The indefatigable James Anderson – then a rookie, now the most experienced bowler in Test history – acts as the link man between the two eras.
Old Trafford: beat South Africa by an innings and 85 runs
The Oval: beat South Africa by 9 wickets
Rawalpindi: beat Pakistan by 74 runs
Multan: beat Pakistan by 26 runs
Karachi: beat Pakistan by eight wickets
Mount Maunganui: beat NZ by 267 runs
But matching up to big names and big achievements of years gone by is not a priority for an England side who have won 10 of their 11 games under captain Ben Stokes and head coach Brendon McCullum by living in the moment.
“The mindset we’re in is just one game at a time and trying to play with nothing to lose. If we talk about records like that, then we kind of are playing with something to lose,” Leach said ahead of Friday’s decisive second Test against New Zealand.
“That was the team I grew up watching, they’re all my heroes for sure. That 2005 Ashes was amazing and really gripped the country. I guess that is special to think about that, but it doesn’t take that much of your thinking when you’re about to play a Test match.
“You can cross them off after you’ve done them. We’re in a good place, on a good roll, and it’s a pleasure and a privilege to be in this team.”
— England Cricket (@englandcricket) February 19, 2023
Leach had a quiet time of it in the 267-run success in Mount Mauganui, settling for one wicket in each innings as the majority of the damage was done by the seamers in the floodlit day/night Test.
If recent trends at the capital’s Basin Reserve ground are anything to by, with pace to the fore and spin reduced to a supporting role, there could be more of the same in the coming days.
But Leach’s place is not in doubt, with Stokes eager to back him in all conditions and develop his range.
“It will be a tough challenge, but it’s really good for me as a spinner to experience these pitches, to keep working on my craft and working hard,” said the left-armer.
“Stokesy spoke to me about that. He wants me to experience all different kinds of pitches and scenarios. The only way you can make improvements is by being exposed to situations you’re not used to. That struggle can make you progress your game.
“It’s great that the captain wants to challenge me. Hopefully these experiences really progress my development quickly and that will help me in the future.”