Leaning relishing role
Leaning relishing role

Kent Cricket’s Jack Leaning is relishing playing a more important role for his current team than he has previously in his career ahead of Vitality Blast Finals Day on Saturday.

Leaning, 27, has scored 294 runs at 32.66 for the Spitfires this year in the competition, including a high score of 81 not out against Gloucestershire.

He has been batting higher up the order than he has before, mainly at numbers four and five, and is loving being able to get more involved in the game.

“I think four is my favourite position,” said Leaning, speaking ahead of Finals Day. “I feel like you are in the game early. Sometimes the lower you bat the game is already dictated whereas if you come in earlier, you can impose yourself on the game and really make it take the course you want it to.

“Hopefully if I can get a couple more scores in the back end of this year, I can really cement my place at four for a long time to come.”

Batsman Leaning has been one of the stars of Kent’s impressive T20 campaign this year, scoring three 50s and striking at 137.38 from his 11 innings so far in the competition.

“I have really enjoyed batting higher up, just for that extra time and giving yourself a chance before you have to be pretty expansive,” he said.

“I have spent a lot of my career batting at five, six, seven in T20 cricket. I know I can do that side of my game, but it is quite nice to have the opportunity to get up higher and hopefully be on 30 or 40 by the time I can go and tee off at the end.”

Leaning has also been able to impact game with his bowling and fielding for Kent, proving to be a valuable all-round cricketer for the side.

With the ball, he has taken six wickets at an average of just over 10, including figures of 2/7 against Birmingham Bears in the quarterfinal. In the field, he has taken 10 catches, second in the Kent team behind only Alex Blake, who has taken 12.

“I have probably enjoyed the bowling just as much as the batting to be honest,” said Leaning.

“It is something I have worked on for a number of years so it is nice to get the opportunity and the backing of someone saying they believe I can bowl at their best players when the situation suits, and it think that has brought the best out of me with my competitive edge.

“I have really enjoyed it and hopefully there are a couple more wickets for me at Finals Day.”

Leaning insisted the Canterbury crowd has played a big part in his successes in the field. As one of the best catchers in the team, he is regularly on the boundary edge and has made some friends out there.

“That is the best bit about being a professional sportsman, not just a cricketer,” he said, smiling. “I have made a couple of friends on the boundary, there have been a couple of chants and a couple of funny ones I probably can’t repeat in an interview, but it is good fun out there.”

Now, things get serious for Kent. Leaning has been to Finals Day before; unsuccessfully, and this time he wants to go all the way.

“I think it was 2016 I went with Yorkshire, and we got beat in the semifinal unfortunately,” he remembered. “Hopefully we can go a couple steps further this year and lift the trophy.

“We have played some brilliant cricket so far and we are very capable of doing it, and hopefully it all comes together on the day.

“The boys fully believe we can believe it. We have had a really good year T20 wise so there is no reason why we can’t.”