SOMERSET and England spinner Jack Leach received a hero’s welcome upon his return to boyhood club Taunton Deane on Saturday night.

The left-armer took 18 wickets in England’s 3-0 series win in Sri Lanka and was rewarded with lifetime membership at the Deane, who he continues to represent.

Around 120 people gathered at the Convent Field to welcome him home as the club displayed their pride in one of their own.

Taunton Deane club captain Dave Stephenson, who taught Leach PE at Bishop Fox’s School, said: “Jack has always been a lovely lad.

“He is very calm, placid and always in control, which shows in his bowling. He stays cool and never gets too flustered.

"I knew he was going to be good, but I didn't know he was going to be quite as good as he has turned out to be."

Stephenson, whose father Harold was Somerset's wicketkeeper for almost two decades after the Second World War and captained the county for five seasons, brought Leach to Taunton Deane and ended up playing alongside the future England spinner.

“Jack was probably about 13 when he first played adult cricket, which was for our 3rd XI," he said.

"I was going down the teams as he was coming up, but our paths crossed in the 2nd XI and during our staff versus students matches.

“I always used to try and cart Jack over mid-wicket, which he never liked very much!

“He has been very loyal to the Deane," added Stephenson, who still plays for the club himself as well as representing Somerset Over-60s.

"He has had offers from other clubs but has chosen to stay with us, and he still plays now when he can.

"I really enjoyed watching him in Sri Lanka, although waking up at 4.30am every morning upset my sleeping pattern a little bit!

“We are so proud of what he has achieved. He has fought through plenty of battles - he picked up Crohn’s disease when he was at school, which is very hard for a keen young sportsman, and was also overlooked by England for too long.

“He has always had a positive attitude and now he is proving a lot of people wrong. We couldn’t be happier for him.”