Jack Leaning will leave Yorkshire for Kent at the end of the season to attempt to resurrect a career that has lost impetus since he was deemed to be one of the most promising young players in the country.
With Kent’s Division One future all but assured, and with a strong challenge in the Vitality Blast once again underlining their T20 credentials, Leaning has decided to leave a county that he has been with since he was 10 years old.
His departure continues a Yorkshire reshaping over the past year which has brought mixed results, with a top-three place in the Championship not masking the inadequacies of the club’s limited-overs cricket.
Leaning’s absence from the T20 side was therefore particularly galling as Yorkshire’s middle order has persistently looked to be one of the weakest in the country. Despite a career strike rate of 131 and average of 28, he has played only two matches – managing 39 from as many balls to go with a wicket in Friday’s victory over Durham.
His Championship form has long been under scrutiny. Kent will envisage improvement on an average of 30.46, considerably below what was expected when, somewhat surprisingly, he was named as the Cricket Writers’ Club Young Player of the Year at 21. Capped at Scarborough in 2016, this summer he made a pair there against Surrey and the look in his eyes suggested he would be better elsewhere.
Kent’s director of cricket Paul Downton said: “Jack’s talents across all formats of the game show that he is a versatile and intelligent cricketer. He will add significant depth to our batting unit.”
Neither would it be a surprise if Kent uncovered Leaning’s potential as an offspinner. He has only 18 wickets in all competitions, but he is a big turner of the ball and has been undervalued by Yorkshire in such a role.
“I think it’s at the right stage of my career to have a little bit of a change, and hopefully it all works out to be a positive one,” Leaning said. “It’s a big move lifestyle-wise, and that did cross my mind at first. But since then, all that’s come back to my mind is excitement as opposed to any nerves.”
He would not be the first player to leave Yorkshire and rebuild his career elsewhere. Alex Lees, another batsman to win the CWC Young Player award, and has had moderate success in his first season at Durham.
“I leave Yorkshire with nothing but fond memories,” Leaning added. “I’ll be giving it my all towards the end of the season, and there are still two bits of silverware on offer if things go well for us.”
Yorkshire’s director of cricket Martyn Moxon said: “He’s been a great model professional during his time here and has been part of two Championship-winning teams.
“He’s had a good career, but hasn’t played regular first-team cricket. At this moment in time, the opportunity to play first-team cricket is exactly what he needs. We thank him for representing us with pride and wish him every success.”