Former England spinner Graeme Swann believes that England would have won the 2023 Ashes if Jack Leach had been fit and available.

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The hotly contested 2023 Ashes ended in a draw as both teams won two Tests each. Jack Leach, England’s premier Test spinner, had to miss the entirety of the series after suffering from a stress fracture of the back.

England recalled Moeen Ali from retirement, who then injured his finger during the first Test and had to miss the second before returning for the last three games of the series.

Swann told the Daily Mail that England would have won the first Test match, at Edgbaston, and consequently the Ashes, had Leach played: “I believe we would have won the Ashes last year had Jack been playing in those first two Tests. Moeen Ali came in and did as good a job as he could but he’d had no red-ball cricket under his belt and a damaged finger.

“There’s no way we wouldn’t have bowled them out at Edgbaston had Jack been playing. I can’t wait to see him back.”

Australia won the first Test of the 2023 Ashes at Edgbaston by two wickets. In a thrilling climax on day five, chasing 281 for victory, Australia had lost their eighth wicket at the score of 227.

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With only Pat Cummins and Nathan Lyon at the crease and the target more than 50 runs away, England couldn’t get the job done. Moeen’s finger injury meant he wasn’t as effective, and Joe Root had to take over the mantle of bowling off-breaks in the dying stages of day five. Eventually, Cummins and Lyon took Australia over the line without losing another wicket.

England then lost the second Test at Lord’s as well, despite a heroic innings from Ben Stokes, before storming back in the second half of the series. Leach’s presence would definitely have given England more control with the ball, and might, as Swann says, have led them to an Ashes victory.

Leach is fit and raring to go for their next big assignment, a five-match Test series in India starting January 2024. Swann, who is working with the ECB as a coach and consultant, said that Leach is looking fit as ever and has started to believe in his abilities.

“I tell you what, he’s as fit as any spinner who has ever played cricket for England,” said Swann. “I couldn’t believe it. He took his shirt off and I thought he was posing for a calendar or something… He’s ripped to shreds and he’s done it because he wants to protect his back as much as he can.

“Jack is starting to believe now that he’s a world-class Test bowler and that’s what he needed. Probably 80 per cent of the job is believing in yourself when you’re bowling and not panicking and worrying.”