JASON GILLESPIE has described the decision to drop young batsman Jack Leaning as “a very tough call” after Yorkshire instead turned to Australian ace Aaron Finch for their County Championship match against Somerset at Headingley starting today.
Leaning is averaging 46 in this year’s competition and is one of eight players shortlisted for this summer’s LV= County Championship Breakthrough Player Award.
But leaders Yorkshire have shaken things up in a move that again highlights their enviable strength in depth, with the club having left out leading wicket-taker Jack Brooks for their previous Championship game against Sussex at Hove.
Brooks – who has taken 57 first-class wickets this year at an average of 20 – returns for this week’s fixture, while Leaning heads to Taunton Vale for the second XI’s three-day friendly against Somerset starting tomorrow.
Leaning, 21, has been omitted after scoring 128 runs in his last eight Championship innings at an average of 16.
The right-hander hit 657 runs in his previous 11 innings at an average of 73, including hundreds against Nottinghamshire at home and away and against today’s opponents at Taunton.
Leaning also top-scored with 72 in Thursday’s Royal London Cup quarter-final win over Essex at Chelmsford.
Finch, 28, recently returned to Yorkshire after a foot injury and last week made 60 and 104 not out for the second team against Nottinghamshire at Stamford Bridge.
Commenting on Leaning’s exclusion, first team coach Gillespie explained: “It was a very tough call, no question.
“Jack has done well this year, averaging over 40 with over 700 runs, and he started the season really well.
“Unfortunately, with selection dilemmas, it comes down to someone having to miss out, and, in this situation, it’s Jack.
“Last game, we had five outstanding fast bowlers to choose from and someone had to miss out, and unfortunately that was Jack Brooks, which was also an incredibly difficult decision.”
Gillespie said Leaning had “taken it very well” after playing in all 12 of Yorkshire’s Championship matches to date, one of four ever-presents along with Alex Lees, Tim Bresnan and Steve Patterson.
He is predicting a positive response from a man whose total of runs and hundreds is bettered only by Jonny Bairstow, who returns in place of wicketkeeper Andrew Hodd along with fellow Ashes participant, opener Adam Lyth.
“Jack is obviously bitterly disappointed, as you would expect,” said Gillespie, whose side are 30 points clear with a game in hand.
“I’d certainly expect nothing less from him.
“To break that news to him is not something I take any pleasure in doing whatsoever because lads are fulfilling their dream of representing Yorkshire.
“But we feel it’s the right decision, and we’re looking for a real positive response from Jack, which I know we will get.”
Gillespie revealed that he told the squad prior to the Sussex game that Brooks would return to the starting line-up this week.
It is a return facilitated by the absence of fellow pace bowler Liam Plunkett, who is on one-day international duty along with Adil Rashid (himself replaced in the Yorkshire squad by fellow spinner James Middlebrook), but Gillespie stressed Brooks would have played even if Plunkett was available.
“I made it very clear before the start of the Sussex game that Jack would be playing against Somerset,” said Gillespie.
“There are absolutely no issues there.
“One of the reasons Jack missed out at Hove was that we couldn’t play him against Durham at Scarborough in our previous match because he had a bit of a back niggle.
“He hadn’t had much cricket under his belt, and we wanted to get him nice and strong.”
Gillespie said Brooks’s remarkable record at Headingley – 85 first-class wickets at 19 – was another factor.
“Brooksy is one of the first names on the team-sheet at Headingley,” he said.
“His record there is unbelievable.
“It’s because of the length he bowls – full and challenging the batsman’s off stump.
“His stats at the ground speak for themselves.”