A notable feature of the County Championship this April was the success enjoyed by spinners – beyond the usual excellence of Essex’s Simon Harmer, a number of domestic tweakers have shone as well.
While Jack Leach will most likely take up the role of England’s primary Test spinner this summer – with New Zealand in June his first assignment – we’ve taken a look at how he and those pressing for his place have fared so far in the County Championship this season.
Having played in all of England’s Tests over the winter, Leach is currently the leading spinner in the Test set-up and is set to retain his place this summer. The excellence of Craig Overton and Josh Davey has seen Leach take a backseat role in the first rounds of the summer, but the left-arm spinner has still delivered nine wickets at a respectable average of 30.66. He was most impressive in the season opener at Lord’s, offering control and four wickets in frosty conditions to help Somerset to a brilliant comeback win.
Harmer is the only spinner with more wickets in the County Championship than the Lancashire leg-spinner. Eighteen wickets in three matches have included a career-best haul of 7-102 and a couple of ripping dismissals to remember. Having endured plenty of time in the nets during England’s tour of India and Sri Lanka, Parkinson is finally getting some game time and making it count too.
The in-and-around crew (others who toured with England over the winter)
After a winter of the highest highs and lowest lows, Bess went wicketless in his first four innings as a fully-fledged Yorkshire player. But he came to the fore against Sussex at Hove, bowling his side to victory with a fourth-innings haul of 6-53. The 23-year-old is averaging just under 40 with the bat as well.
Hampshire opted for another quick in their attack against Surrey last week, with Crane dropping out as a result. He began the season brightly with six wickets against Leicestershire and his red-ball record going back to the start of the Bob Willis Trophy remains impressive: 24 wickets have come at 22.50.
Due to both Surrey’s frailties and brilliance, Virdi had little to do in the last April rounds, bowling just nine overs across two matches. He managed to take seven wickets in his first two games and retains a fine first-class record – 32 matches into his career, he’s just two away from 100 wickets with his average under 30.
A very intriguing option available to England. A six-foot tall leg-spinner, Critchley has taken 15 wickets so far this season but is also establishing himself as a fine batsman. He is currently the fourth-highest run-scorer in the Championship, with five 50+ scores in eight innings. With Ben Stokes out of England’s Tests with New Zealand, Critchley is an all-round option who could balance England’s side.