By Stuart Dunn, @studunn21, at The Shrewsbury Chronicle
JOE LEACH insists his performances for Birmingham Cricket League champions Shrewsbury have been key in securing a new contract at Worcestershire.
The influential all-rounder is delighted to have agreed a new deal at New Road and hopes to hold down a regular place for the Pears in the County Championship next season.
He’s currently recharging his batteries ahead of returning to pre-season training on November 4 alongside the likes of Worcestershire’s Shrewsbury-born opening bowler Jack Shantry.
Leach, who cracked his maiden first class century against Gloucestershire at Cheltenham in July, played a key role for Shrewsbury as they were crowned Birmingham League champs for the second time in four years in August.
And the former Shrewsbruy School pupil, who turns 23 on Sunday, stressed his continued involvement at London Road has really helped him push on as a professional cricketer.
“It might sound a cliche but playing for Shrewsbury has taught me to be a winner and there’s nothing better than winning games,” said Leach.
“Being at the forefront of things for Shrewsbury has given me quite a bit of responsibility on my shoulders and I’ve been happy to do that.”
Leach still plans to play for Shrewsbury whenever he’s available next summer but, with his long-term career in mind, he hopes his Birmingham League appearances may be a little more limited as that would mean he’s holding down a regular spot for Worcestershire.
He said: “I would say last season was more of a breakthrough for me as, although I had played some first team cricket at Worcester the year before, it had not gone particularly well.
“I really had to prove myself and I was pleased with 80 per cent of how the season went.
“I’m now hoping for a little more consistency and the aim has to be to have a good pre-season to make sure I’m in the team from day one next year.”
Leach is not the only all-rounder vying for a first team spot at New Road with Gareth Andrew and Ross Whiteley, a recent recruit from Derbyshire, also in the frame.
But Leach believes there is no reason why all three of them should not be accommodated in the side at the same time.
Leach, also a star performer for Shropshire in the past, is currently averaging 23.70 with the bat in first class cricket while he has taken 18 wickets at just under 30 apiece.