England are hoping Jack Leach can rally from a “pretty serious” knee injury after the side’s senior spinner struggled to play his part on a troublesome day in Hyderabad.
The experienced left-armer was pencilled in to lead the attack on the turning pitches of India but could only manage a reduced role as the hosts opened up a 175-run lead on day two of the first Test.
He contributed just 16 wicketless overs across three sessions and none of his spells lasted longer than four, forcing part-timer Joe Root take up the slack alongside rookies Tom Hartley and Rehan Ahmed.
Assistant coach Jeetan Patel revealed Leach landed awkwardly on his left knee while fielding on the first evening and aggravated the problem with a second blow after returning in the morning session.
Leach, who missed the entirety of last summer’s Ashes with a stress fracture of the back, remained on the field and came on six times in an attempt to disrupt India’s march towards a formidable 421 for seven.
“Jack banged his knee last night, the first dive down at fine leg, then he banged it again today and it’s giving him a little jip to be honest,” said Patel.
“It must be pretty serious, or serious for him anyway, because the reality is he wouldn’t shirk that responsibility. It is sore enough, if you watch him in the outfield and I don’t think it’s a graze.
“You noticed he was a little sluggish trying to get to balls, but he stuck at it and I thought he actually bowled really, really well considering. He tried everything and he used the options he had, bearing in mind he was a bit hampered.
“That’s what Jack does for this team, he’ll always put in, but it’s a bit of a shame from where he’s come (with his rehabilitation), to dive on one at fine leg and all of a sudden you’re hobbling around.”
Part-timer Joe Root picked up 24 overs of the workload and came out in credit with two for 77 but the inexperience of Hartley and Ahmed was evident as they failed to stem the flow of runs. With the squad’s fourth specialist spinner, the uncapped Shoaib Bashir, yet to arrive in the country following visa delays, England know they cannot risk Leach’s knee getting any worse.
“It’s about being smart. We’ve got four Tests to go and another innings at the back end of this game,” said Patel.
“We need a key man like Jack.”
“It was a tough day but the effort the guys put in were immense, through the roof almost,” he said.
“If you walked into the ground and didn’t know the score you’d almost think we were right on top of the game. Today proves what that changing room is about. We just need to make sure we come back, have that same attitude about how we take those three wickets, and the game will work itself out from there.”