Jack Leach returned with 18 wickets, joint highest with team-mate Moeen Ali, in the tourists’ 3-0 series sweep against Sri Lanka on Monday. @ Getty Images
Jack Leach returned with 18 wickets, joint highest with team-mate Moeen Ali, in the tourists’ 3-0 series sweep against Sri Lanka on Monday. @ Getty Images

England’s hero Jack Leach, who returned with 18 wickets, joint highest with team-mate Moeen Ali, in the tourists’ 3-0 series sweep against Sri Lanka on the last day of the third Test on Monday, described his bullet throw that saw Kusal Mendis fall short of his crease as “the best moment in his career”.

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Leach, the 27-year-old left-arm spinner’s direct hit from deep backward square leg at the non-striker’s end left Mendis, who was bringing Sri Lanka back into contention, short. The wicket of Mendis, who made 86, was an important one.

“I would love to say I’ve been working on those long-distance throws but I’d be lying,” Leach was quoted as saying by ESPNCricinfo on Monday.

“I’ve never done anything like that and actually think it was the best moment of my career so far. My towel at the back of my trousers wasn’t quite in properly so, just before the ball came to me, I quickly threw it to the boundary. And then suddenly it looked like they were going to run two and I thought ‘oh no! I’ve conceded two here and I shouldn’t have done that.’

“So, I just launched it towards the stumps and thought ‘that’s going to hit’ and luckily it did. So, I was a bit lucky, really. It was a big moment.”

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Leach said that fatigue was beginning to creep into him, specially at the latter half of the day when Sri Lanka stretched the result, thanks to Malinda Pushpakumara and Sri Lanka captain Suranga Lamkal, who stitched a 58-run stand for the last wicket after Mendis and Roshen Silva kept the Islanders in the hunt with century partnership for the sixth wicket.

“I’m absolutely knackered,” he said. “I thought it was hot during the first two Tests, but then I got to Colombo and was like ‘maybe it wasn’t that hot [before].’ Because it turns out Colombo is proper sweaty.

“Sri Lanka pushed us all the way. After the tea break Joe Root threw me the ball and I had to get the body going again. So, I was just happy to get that wicket and get off the pitch.

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“It has tested me physically, definitely. None of the guys are used to this so it is even more special that we could put in good performances to get the win.

“At the moment I just don’t want to play cricket ever again, I’m so tired. But I’ll give it a couple of weeks and then I’ll be keen to get back in the gym and work on some things that I feel I can get better at and get myself ready for the Caribbean if I’m picked.”

England enjoy a well-deserved Christmas break before they depart to the Caribbean in January next year where they will be involved in three Tests, five ODIs and three T20Is, beginning with the first Test on January 23.

“It is a huge thrill to come out here and take wickets on spinning tracks,” he said.

“There have been ups and downs, but to come out on top with a 3-0 result is amazing. It has been a great trip for me. I feel like I’ve learnt a lot through winning games, which is how you want it. But I also think I need to keep getting better so this tour will really help me.

“Everyone has contributed: Stokesy’s run out in Kandy and his spell of bowling here; Keaton’s fielding at short-leg. Little things have made a big difference. And the way the batters have played has been something special. Rooty asked us to be brave with the bat and we’ve done that. It’s special result. I’m just glad to have been able to play my part and be involved.”