Dom Leech has revealed how shredded nerves turned into calm and clear thinking in almost an instant as he walked out to the middle to begin his role in Yorkshire’s wonderful one-wicket win over Surrey at York yesterday.
Fast bowler Leech, aged 22, hit a superb 18 not out off 37 balls as Yorkshire recovered from 210-9 chasing 242.
He acted as Harry Duke’s trusty sidekick, the wicketkeeper-opener leading the way with a brilliant unbeaten 93.
Yorkshire were cruising at 141-3 in their chase, only to lose a flurry of wickets to heighten nerves. Duke, 21-years-old, played the senior figure, as last man Leech was actually batting for the first time in List A cricket in only his third career appearance.
“It was weird because Dukey was so calm and I was so calm as well,” said Middlesbrough-born Leech.
“I almost thought, in a weird way, that we were going to do it right from my first ball. I was really nervous and could hardly watch before I went in. But as soon as Coady got out, I was like, ‘Right, it’s on’.
“I was sat in the chair and didn’t really want to bat. But once I got out there, I absolutely loved it.”
Leech has been speaking about the last-gasp heroics as he looks ahead to perhaps doing it all over again when Hampshire visit Clifton Park for Metro Bank One-Day Cup match number six tomorrow (11am).
“Credit to Dukey. What was he, 93 or 94 not out?” continued Leech. “He batted right through, and it was an incredible knock.
“What a victory!”
Leech and Duke – both ex-England Under 19s – are close mates, and the latter said immediately after the match that it was one of the best feelings he’s ever had in the game.
Leech agreed: “It was definitely the best feeling I’ve ever had playing cricket,” he said.
Before we return to Leech’s performance yesterday and his development as a cricketer, let’s look at the Hampshire game.
Following the Surrey win – their second in five games – Yorkshire are now in an excellent position to qualify out of Group One with three fixtures left to play.
Leech, Duke and company sit third in the table, holding the final qualifying position, on six points from five games.
Only four points separate the top four teams in the group. Leicestershire are top on 10 points from six games, Hampshire second with eight from five, Yorkshire third on six from five and Kent fourth also with six from five.
Nottinghamshire and Lancashire also remain in the mix but have little room for manoeuvre.
Hampshire beat Lancashire at Emirates Old Trafford yesterday as they defended a 235 target to win by 11 runs.
Missing 10 players because of the Hundred, including club captain James Vince, opening batter Nick Gubbins is skippering them. He top-scored with 66 in 234 all out before fast bowler Brad Wheal claimed 5-47 from 10 overs in the Red Rose’s 223 all out.
“Hampshire are a good side, and we’ll try our best,” said Leech.
“We’re taking each game as it comes. We’ve had two washed out, we got beat on DLS by one run against Kent, and we didn’t feel like we deserved that. So the morale in the group is good.
“We’re playing good cricket, and if we can keep doing it we can have success.
“The games are coming thick and fast, and the crowd gets involved here at York. It felt like there were 10,000 on and not 3,000 yesterday.”
Leech started and finished the Surrey game brilliantly.
He struck twice in two balls in the second over of the match, leaving Surrey at 0-2 and leaving them with a mountain to climb. They oh so nearly scaled it, but ultimately it was a step too far.
The seamer said: “My first over was really good, and I probably didn’t get it right how I wanted to after that. But that happens.
“Like we spoke about before the competition, if we can get two wickets in the first 10 overs, that’s big. We could have squeezed them a bit more for under 200. But it was a nice wicket and a small ground.”
Leech may have come in at number 11, but his performance was no surprise to partner Duke and will have absolutely not shocked Yorkshire’s coaching staff, who have worked hard with him on his batting in recent times.
He already has a top-score of 32 in five first-class appearances to date, for example.
“I’ve done a lot of work on my batting, mostly with Tom Smith and James Lowe this winter,” he added. “I’ve really put that work into this summer.
“There are a few times in the second-team, even the first, where I’ve got myself to 30 or 40 and have got myself out. I should kick on and get 70 or 80 and make a claim to bat eight or nine.
“I feel that’s where I can bat. But I would happily bat anywhere if I can finish games like that.”