If Dom Leech stars to help Yorkshire’s second team beat Worcestershire over the next four days, it would not be an exaggeration to suggest that a fast bowling superstar has played a small part in getting their Championship title defence off to the ideal start.
Leech will line up for the twos against the Pears at Bradford Park Avenue tomorrow (11am) for the season opener, the fast bowler itching to get going after an injury-ravaged 2022.
The 22-year-old from Middlesbrough is set to be part of a pace attack which could also include new county signings Ben Mike and Australian Mickey Edwards.
Watch Leech bowl and the similarities to South African legend Dale Steyn are immediately obvious.
And last month, on Yorkshire’s pre-season tour to Cape Town, the now retired quick, who claimed 699 international wickets during his playing career, dropped into camp at the request of his former Proteas coach Ottis Gibson.
“It was brilliant to meet him, and he was really good to speak to,” said Leech.
“I’ve watched a lot of him on TV and on YouTube and things like that, and he’s someone I’ve kind of modelled my action and run-up on, more so the run-up with the way he pumps his arms and stuff.
“I chatted to him for quite a while and asked loads of questions.
“It was mainly about remembering what your job is as a fast bowler – to bowl fast. Whenever you’re called upon in a game, make that your primary aim and enjoy doing it.
“He’s a big one for enjoying it. It may be your job, but you have to have fun doing it.
“I spoke to him about setting batters up. That could be by bowling three overs of away swing just for that one to come back. I’ve spoken to Gibbo about that as well.”
Steyn was generous with his time as he spoke to the Yorkshire quicks before jetting off to the Indian Premier League, where he is part of the Sunrisers Hyderabad coaching team. Harry Brook is, of course, in their squad.
Last summer was hugely frustrating for Leech, who only played a trio of first-team T20 fixtures added to a couple in the seconds as he battled to overcome an early rib injury and a late broken metatarsal in his foot.
Add that to the dislocated knee he suffered in late 2021 and the highly-rated former England Under 19s man has been through a lot of adversity in his short career.
“Luckily once I’m fit, I don’t really think about that kind of thing – it doesn’t enter my mind,” he said, encouragingly.
“It was tough last year. I’d worked hard in pre-season, got fit, felt I’d improved and then was injured for a lot of the summer. It was probably the toughest season I’ve had in my career.
“I missed a lot of cricket, and it was tough watching from the sidelines. I couldn’t help the first-team lads try to stay up or the seconds go for the title.
“But I’m really looking forward to this one. I feel fit and strong.
“I just can’t wait to get going now and put what I’ve worked on into matches.
“The one positive about last season was that I felt like I learnt a lot by watching a lot of cricket.
“I was in quite a lot doing 12th man duties even when I was injured. I watched Surrey bowl, Hampshire as well. They had two of the best attacks in the country last year.”
The strength of Yorkshire’s fast bowling stocks for 2023 will be highlighted by the bowlers coach Tom Smith has at his disposal at Park Avenue this week.
“There’s a lot of competition, but everyone will get a chance in the first team,” added Leech. “Opportunities will come. It’s just about being ready to take them.”
Yorkshire second-team squad v Worcestershire: Luxton, Fraine, Vagadia, Light, Cree, Duke, Mike, Leech, Chohan, Cliff, Shutt, Edwards and McMurran.