Ashes 2019: I was like 'have a bit of faith!' - Stokes not watching put Leach off

By Sports Desk August 25, 2019

Jack Leach joked he was distracted by Ben Stokes not being able to watch him bat as England completed one of the great Ashes Test wins against Australia.

Stokes made a magnificent 135 not out as England triumphed by one wicket at Headingley on Sunday, levelling the series despite making just 67 in their first innings.

Leach played a vital supporting role despite making a single run as part of the 76 partnership that saw England home in front of a raucous Leeds crowd.

While Stokes thrashed Australia's bowlers around the park to rapidly reduce the runs needed, Leach was able to survive - despite his nervous partner being unable to watch.

"It put me off a little bit!" Leach told Sky Sports of Stokes looking away.

"He said he couldn't watch one ball and then when another was coming in I could see he couldn't watch again. I was like, 'have a bit of faith!'

"It's a big boost, it's 1-1 now with all to play for. We were desperate to win the game and somehow we pulled it off so it was very special.

"It was a very special feeling. Stokesy was unbelievable. It was like nothing I've ever seen before. And the crowd was insane.

"[Stokes] didn't really say a lot. When I first went in it was about him having most of the strike and being ready to run two. Then when I had to face a ball I had to break it down and get through one ball at a time."

Leach, who made 92 against Ireland in another comeback win for England in July, became a cult hero with his idiosyncratic approach.

The spinner regularly paused to wipe his glasses clean before taking strike, earning a standing ovation from the Headingley fans every time he survived an over.

"I know I look stupid out there but we got the job done," Leach said. "I'd take back that 92 for one not out here."

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    Play was stopped twice before half-time during a comfortable victory for Gareth Southgate's men on Monday, with an address over the Vasil Levski National Stadium urging an end to racist chanting before a number of Bulgaria fans were removed from the ground.

    England players informed the match officials of the discriminatory behaviour and an abandonment looked possible at one stage, although Harry Kane would ultimately round out an emphatic scoreline set in motion by Marcus Rashford's blistering opener and embellished by braces from Raheem Sterling and Ross Barkley.

    Henderson exchanged words with Balakov during one of the breaks in play and was aghast when he heard the 53-year-old had stated after the game that the allegations of racism must be "proven", choosing instead to criticise the behaviour of England supporters and a pre-match focus upon a potential for racist incidents.

    "I had a few words with the manager. It wasn't acceptable – something needs to be done," the Liverpool captain told Sky Sports News.

    "He needs to apologise now, really, on behalf of the team and the fans. He knows what was going on. He was asking me what the problem was.

    "When I told him he knew what was going on, it was baffling how he didn't, really. Hopefully he looks back and apologises because anyone watching that game would be disgusted really."

    England discussed whether they should resume the match at half-time and Henderson, angered by what had transpired, took pride in their unanimous response in the face of adversity.

    "I felt angry," he said. "They're my team-mates, my friends who I've known for a long time and I share a dressing room with.

    "It was shocking to see. I was so angry at one point but the game goes on, you've got to switch the focus to the football.

    "At half-time we spoke about it, we wanted to carry on. If one person said they didn't want to go out then we wouldn't have done and that would have been it.

    "But everybody's message was we wanted to make them suffer and not make them win. I felt we did that brilliantly."

  • Kick It Out demands UEFA 'show leadership' after England players receive racial abuse in Bulgaria Kick It Out demands UEFA 'show leadership' after England players receive racial abuse in Bulgaria

    Anti-racism campaigners Kick It Out has slammed UEFA for its handling of England's Euro 2020 qualifier against Bulgaria, and its previous punishments for racial abuse.

    England's 6-0 win on Monday was halted twice in the first half, with the match seemingly set to be abandoned amid chants from sections of Bulgaria's support at Vasil Levski National Stadium, which was partially shut due to previous incidents of racist abuse from some home supporters.

    Gareth Southgate's England elected to come back out for the second half, with a group of Bulgaria fans ejected from the ground during the second stoppage.

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    "We are sickened by the disgusting racist abuse directed at England men's team tonight by Bulgaria supporters – including TV footage which appeared to show Nazi salutes and monkey noises," Kick It Out stated.

    "We applaud Gareth Southgate, his staff and players for the actions taken in reporting the abhorrent abuse, and offer our full support to the entire squad, their families and anyone affected by those appalling scenes.

    "We are encouraged that the protocol was initially enforced by the match officials, but UEFA must explain why players weren't sent to the dressing room during Step Two, as is clearly stated in the rules.

    "TV footage also clearly shows that racist abuse continued in the second half, so it is unacceptable that Step Three was not enforced. This match should have been abandoned by the officials.

    "It's now time for UEFA to step up and show some leadership. For far too long, they have consistently failed to take effective action.

    "The fact Bulgaria are already hosting this game with a partial stadium closure for racist abuse shows that UEFA's sanctions are not fit for purpose.

    "There can be no more pitiful fines or short stadium bans. If UEFA care at all about tackling discrimination – and if the Equal Game campaign means anything – then points deductions and tournament expulsion must follow."

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