County duo sign new contracts

NEW CONTRACT: Joe Leach.

FRESH DEAL: Chris Russell.

First published in Sport

WORCESTERSHIRE all-rounder Joe Leach and paceman Chris Russell have signed new two-year contracts with the County.

Leach, 23, scored his maiden first-class century against Gloucestershire at Cheltenham last season.

He has fought his way back into the side this season in LV= County Championship Division Two, List 'A' and NatWest T20 Blast cricket after captaining the second XI during the early part of the campaign.

Leach's bowling has improved considerably after working with bowling coach Matt Mason during the winter.

He has taken 24 championship wickets, including a career-best 5-36 against Kent at Tunbridge Wells.

Leach has formed part of an effective pace attack after replacing Gareth Andrew following his back injury.

However, he has also continued to weigh in with useful runs batting in the lower middle order in all formats of the game.

Director of cricket Steve Rhodes said: "His bowling has come on leaps and bounds and he has been an important part of our attack. He has possibly been our most improved seamer.

"But he'll definitely get another hundred batting where he bats now because he is good enough to do it."

Russell has taken 38 wickets in 18 first-class appearances and played in the opening championship match of this season against Hampshire at the Ageas Bowl.

However, during the current campaign, the 25-year-old has operated mainly in NatWest T20 Blast cricket and finished as the County's leading wicket-taker in the competition with 16 victims in eight matches.

Bowling coach and assistant coach Mason said: "Chris worked a lot on his white-ball skills in the winter and made some crucial contributions in T20 cricket.

"But now he will want to kick on in other formats of the game."

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