England Lions went 1-0 down in their three-match series against West Indies A despite a record-breaking performance by Somerset spinner Jack Leach.
The Lions gave the home team a real fright and set up a breathless finish on the fourth morning, as they slipped from 51-1 to 98 for eight chasing a modest victory target of 106.
Leach claimed four of those wickets to earn second-innings figures of 5-26 from 13 overs, and 8-110 in the match – the best ever by a spinner for the Lions or the England A and B teams who preceded them, beating the eight for 156 claimed by former Notts player Graeme Swann against Zimbabwe in Bulawayo in 1999.
But Rahkeem Cornwall held his nerve to drive Mason Crane for the winning boundary, to the noisy acclaim of a small but enthusiastic crowd at the Trelawny Stadium.
“We gave it a good go – but unfortunately we couldn’t quite get over the line,” said Leach.
“It was always going to be difficult, but we said we had to keep believing – on that wicket, things happen pretty quickly.
“I was happy with the way I bowled today. I maybe learned a bit from watching their spinners bowl in the second innings, although I think things could have been different in the first innings – I had a couple of good lbw shouts turned down, and you never know how it could have been different if they’d been given.
“I feel in a much better place about my game this winter. The Lions training camp in Australia before Christmas was a really tough trip for me, but I learned a hell of a lot playing on those wickets which were totally different again.
“Watching Nathan Lyon bowl on those wickets in the Ashes, seeing how he goes about things, and trying to take things from that. I changed a few things to try and get a bit more energy on the ball. That’s gone really well, I felt in a good place coming here, and it’s gone well in this game.
“It’s a bit about what I’m thinking in my head, a bit about how I use my body, my front side and my delivery stride and things like that. So I’ve changed a few things, but I’m always changing a few things trying to get better and better. But I probably feel now the most on top of my game I have - it’s just about mentally trying to deliver those skills. So I feel in a good place, yeah.
“It’s definitely nice to be up there with Swanny. He was a great bowler.” Jack Leach
“It’s definitely nice to be up there with Swanny. He was a great bowler, and obviously the aim for me is to go on and succeed in Test cricket as he did.”
West Indies A had resumed on 31 for one needing only another 75 to win, and the overnight batsmen Jermaine Blackwood and captain Kieran Powell started positively to trim the target by another 20.
It was Liam Livingstone, who opened the attack with Leach, who broke the stand, as Powell’s attempted sweep lobbed to Nick Gubbins at short leg.
Then Leach took over, generating sharp turn and bounce from a pitch that had helped the spinners throughout.
He claimed the key wicket of Blackwood by surprising him with a ball that went straight on and removed his off stump.
Shamarh Brooks was lbw to one that straightened, and the first-innings centurion Shane Dowrich was bowled going back to another skiddy delivery immediately after surviving a vehement lbw appeal.
That was 86-5, and Livingstone then had the left-handed Raymon Reifer snapped up by his Lancashire team-mate Haseeb Hameed at slip.
Vishaul Singh, another left-hander who played well for a handy 16, then lofted Leach to mid-on where Jamie Porter took a cool catch, and Crane then joined the action with a sharp return catch to dismiss Jomel Warrican.
But Cornwall, whose five first-innings wickets had put the Lions under early pressure, farmed the strike sensibly before striking the winning boundary – to leave the Lions looking to level the series in the second Test which starts at Sabina Park on Sunday.
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