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Injured Mason Crane to be replaced by Jack Leach

Crane will return home with a stress fracture of the lower back.

Mason Crane will be replaced by Jack Leach in New Zealand
Mason Crane will be replaced by Jack Leach in New Zealand

Mason Crane’s injury-enforced departure from England’s Test tour of New Zealand has handed a belated first call-up for Jack Leach.

Leg-spinner Crane has a stress fracture of the lower back, ruling him out of the two-match series.

The change of plan is one strand of England’s updated contingencies as – at the opposite end of the experience scale – Stuart Broad’s demotion to first-change in Test warm-ups against a New Zealand XI has potential wide-reaching significance.

Broad, who bowled especially well in the second tour match at Seddon Park, may infer succession plans for an eventual end of the record-breaking era in which he and James Anderson have led the attack.

While Broad can still envisage taking his 400th Test wicket in next week’s series opener in Auckland, 21-year-old Crane will not yet be adding to his debut in January’s Ashes finale in Sydney.

Anderson spoke with empathy on both topics, having shared the new ball with Broad for so long and also – early in his career – encountered the misery of back injuries.

Asked about Crane’s misfortune, he told Sky Sports: “It’s tough, but it happens unfortunately.

“Around that age, you are susceptible to those stress injuries.

“But the advice the lads will be giving him is that he’s young, has plenty of time on his hands, is a serious talent – and if he works hard I’m sure he’ll come back strongly.”

One young man’s disappointment spells opportunity for another.

Leach, the leading spinner in Specsavers County Championship Division One with 116 wickets over the past two years, has trodden an improbable route to his maiden Test tour at the age of 26.

Seven years ago, at a crossroads in his Somerset career, he was pushing trolleys at a Taunton supermarket; then two winters ago, the slow left-armer appeared certain to tour India only for a kink in his action to mean intensive remedial work instead.

At last, after setting an England Lions record match haul last month – with eight for 110 against West Indies A in Jamaica – he is in the frame.

Broad, meanwhile, has plenty to ponder after Joe Root deployed first Mark Wood and then Chris Woakes ahead of him.

Anderson said: “Obviously he’s disappointed, a very proud bloke, and we have opened the bowling for a number of years.

“He’s bowled first change in the past, and I can see what Joe wants to do – looking to the future but also having that experience coming on first change.”

At 31, Broad has updated his action since the end of the Ashes.

Anderson added: “Stuart has done a lot of work in the time off, and I think the last two games he’s looked a different bowler.

“He looks refreshed, confident, his action looks strong and he’s getting the ball to move away from the right-handers – which he’s struggled a bit with in recent times.

“It’s a good option to have him, potentially, coming on first-change.”

Bowling coach Chris Silverwood, on his first tour, insists Broad may yet take the new pink ball at Eden Park.

He said: “It’s just people looking at various options really, that’s all, so we know exactly where we are when we come to the first Test.

“Obviously he and James are outstanding bowlers for us, and they are going to play a huge part for us in the series.”

Broad responded impressively in Hamilton, unflattered by figures of 16-3-36-2 as the NZ XI reached 287 for 13.

“I thought his first spell was outstanding,” said Silverwood.

“He’s bowled beautifully, worked really hard in the nets, put a shift in and got the rewards today.”



From Belfast Telegraph