England cricket star Jack Leach is no stranger to battling adversity
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Jack Leach has had a tricky start to the international summer – but the England spinner is used to battling adversity.

Leach was ruled out of the first Test against New Zealand inside the first session having suffered a concussion while trying to prevent a boundary in the field. He was passed fit for the second Test at Trent Bridge though managed just three wickets throughout the match.

He has been picked in the XI for the third Test at Headingley this week, though Leach has a more pressing battle on his hands as he continues to fight living with Crohn's disease having been diagnosed at the age of 14.

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Crohn’s is an inflammatory bowel disease that can flare up at any time and also weakens your immune system. It’s something that left Leach fearing for his life when he suffered from sepsis following a dodgy chicken burger in New Zealand in November 2019.

The left-arm spinner told The Times: “They took me to a medical centre and I was sick a lot on the way. I remember being on the bed at the medical centre and our security guy, Sam Dickason, was with me as the doctors were talking outside the room and I said to him, ‘I’m in a really bad way here.’ He said, ‘I know, I know…’

“The doctors came back in and, when they measured my heart rate, temperature and blood pressure, they were all really bad and they were getting worse. They called an ambulance, and I was rushed to hospital. There was a period when I was thinking to myself, ‘I really want to fall asleep’, but I was telling myself, ‘Don’t fall asleep.’ I was really unsure what was going on.

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“They put a drip in my arm to get antibiotics in and I reckon within about half an hour to an hour I started to feel a little bit more human.”

Leach, who turned 31 on Wednesday, has recovered from that now and is back on the cricket field. But being a spinner in England is not easy.

So often the Three Lions have gone without a specialist spinner in recent years, though new captain Ben Stokes insisted it was an “easy decision” to bring Leach back for the dramatic second Test.

But the Somerset man, who shared a memorable partnership with Stokes in the Ashes in 2019, continues to have Crohn’s in his mind. He has to inject himself once a week with Humira and is still continuously learning about his body.

He added: “It’s easy to do. I took a bit of time getting used to it. It weakens your immune system so picking up little bugs can knock me back a bit. It is controlling my Crohn’s pretty well, but it is more what the medication does to your body.

“I’ve been a little bit guilty of not understanding Crohn’s well enough, which has probably helped me in a way. Other than having Crohn’s I have felt like a fit and healthy person.

"I think cricket has always been a distraction from it. There have obviously been a couple of occasions where my body has let me down, but I have never felt like I am defined by it.

"I try to focus on the positive things, like I am lucky to be playing sport, to help me through the illness.”

"I'd say it's had a big impact, more than I think about day to day, but I think mentally it's had a big impact for me.

"The link between mental and physical for me is quite big, knowing when you're tired because you play cricket for a living, and when you're actually starting to get a few of the symptoms.

"I'm someone who likes to train and feel prepared, so mentally it's been a tough thing to maybe hold myself back at times. To not be able to do what other team-mates can do, from a training perspective, over time I've learned how to manage it and save myself for the middle.

Leach has played 24 Tests though faces competition for England's spinner spot from the likes of Dom Bess and Matt Parkinson. He's understandably worried about his spot in the team, and how his illness can impact it.

He previously told Somerset CCC: "I'd say it's had a big impact, more than I think about day to day, but I think mentally it's had a big impact for me.

"The link between mental and physical for me is quite big, knowing when you're tired because you play cricket for a living, and when you're actually starting to get a few of the symptoms.

"I'm someone who likes to train and feel prepared, so mentally it's been a tough thing to maybe hold myself back at times. To not be able to do what other team-mates can do, from a training perspective, over time I've learned how to manage it and save myself for the middle.

"The worries of will it have an impact on the amount you're available, selection… I've had times where I lost my place in the team and someone comes in, and you don't know whether you're ever going to get it back.

"Those times where you can't control are frustrating."

For now, Leach is England's No 1 choice – he'll be hoping to maintain that ahead of a winter trip to Pakistan.

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