“WE are always chatting together and I tell him I want my first wicket for England to be stumped Buttler, bowled Leach.”

So Jack Leach told the County Gazette early last year and, though it may have been a catch rather than a stumping and it may have been Leach’s fourth Test wicket rather than his first, there was an element of fairytale about the dismissal of Dilruwan Perera in the first Test between Sri Lanka and England in Galle this week.

Leach and Buttler, both born in Taunton, first played together for Somerset Under-11s and went right through the age groups - now they are reunited on the biggest stage.

They have taken different paths to the Test arena, each having to battle through adversity at various points along the way, but the fact both are lining up against Sri Lanka in Galle is testament to their combined hard work, persistence and talent that was, according to former Somerset academy coach Pete Sanderson, present from a very young age.

“My earliest memory of Jack is him coming down to the ground as a six-year-old,” Sanderson recalls.

“He was a super kid first and foremost – they both were – and they were great lads to coach because they listened and had such a desire to learn.

Burnham and Highbridge Weekly News:

YOUTH: Jos Buttler collects an award at Under-13 level

“Jos was so multi-talented and he was one of those that always looked certain to make it. Being a spin bowler, Jack naturally developed a bit slower. That has carried on since – Jos leapt on to the international scene at a younger age but Jack has got there now and I’m certain he’ll make the most of this opportunity.”

Buttler’s natural talent, honed by hockey and tennis, saw him develop an ability to score all around the wicket – and it was not long before he was impressing his elders in senior cricket.

Steve Tinnion, who played with a young Buttler at Glastonbury CC, said: “I remember a T20 against Taunton when he told the non-striker he was going to reverse sweep the spinner’s last ball of the innings. He duly did so, hitting it for six over extra cover.

“The bowler was Arul Suppiah and the six took him to his century - not bad for a 17-year-old.

“There was also a match against Bath when he was 16, at a time when Bath were easily the best club side in the area.

“He had lost his voice due to sickness, and stroked an effortless hundred without saying a word.”

According to Will Carpenter, a former County Gazette sports reporter who played alongside Buttler and Leach at county age-group level, it was around this time that the former really started to show his quality.

“Jos was always supremely talented but that first Under-17 season, when we were still Under-16s, was when he really stood out as a future star,” he said.

“I remember Jos scoring a ridiculous hundred against a strong Surrey side including Jason Roy, who opened the bowling, and Rory Burns. He hit the ball wherever he wanted and was a class apart.

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SQUAD: Jack Leach (top, second from left), Jos Buttler (bottom, second from right) and Will Carpenter (top, second from right) in the Somerset Under-14s

“Against Sussex, I got injured in the warm-up and we were a bowler short. Jos said he would bowl if needed and, with Sussex 100-odd for three, came on and took a wicket pretty early. It’s always a moment I look back on to demonstrate his pure self-confidence.”

That confidence had also come to the fore a couple of years earlier, as Sanderson explains: “Jos only took on the gloves aged about 14 or 15.

“That was typical of his attitude – we needed someone to do it so he stepped up. They both had a phenomenal attitude and would always do what was best for the team.”

Leach may have garnered fewer headlines than Buttler as a youngster but his consistency marked him out as a bowler with potential.

“What stood out about Jack was his relentlessness not to concede runs and ability to build pressure – he still has that now,” Sanderson said.

“You watch him bowl for Somerset and his economy is so low, which is a captain’s dream. The two attributes you need as a spinner at Test level are an ability to take wickets and restrict the run rate – Jack has both.”

Carpenter agrees, adding: “As it is now, Jack’s bowling in age group cricket was always about line and length – he bowled so accurately and barely went for a run.

“In one Under-14 game, he took 1-3 in 10 overs, including, I think, seven successive maidens. The three runs he conceded came from one delivery – I dived over it in the circle!

“He wasn’t a big turner of the ball, which, as he inevitably moved up the levels, might have been a weakness. So, as with everything with Jack, he worked so hard on turning the ball more.

“We were in the Somerset spin-bowling academy together, and Jack would work constantly on seam position, revs, action. Once he combined his accuracy and consistency with an ability to turn the ball big, he was always going to make it in First Class cricket at the very least.”

Burnham and Highbridge Weekly News:

TROPHY: A young Jack Leach (top, second from right) next to coach Pete Sanderson

The 27-year-old has had to overcome some well-publicised tough times since - each of which, he says, make the good times feel all the sweeter - and should perhaps have been handed his England opportunity sooner.

He has had to be patient and, before a Lions tour in February 2017, spoke to the County Gazette about his friend from those early days at Somerset.

“I played with Jos a lot when I was younger and we are still great mates now,” Leach said.

Burnham and Highbridge Weekly News:

SCENES: Jack Leach and Jos Buttler celebrate combining to dismiss Dilruwan Perera

“It’s great to have a friend like Jos who believes in me. I miss playing cricket with Jos but hope it won’t be too long before I get to have him keeping wicket to me again - that really would be a dream come true.”

That ambition has not been fully lived out yet - Ben Foakes has the gloves in this Test, with Buttler in the outfield - but Sanderson believes this match will be far from a one-off.

“I have no doubt this will be the first of many Tests they play together,” he said.

“Jack has worked so hard and I am also incredibly proud of how Jos has fought back into the side.

“Now he is established it is easy to forget the period he was out of the team, but he has learnt a lot from his experiences around the world and really earned his place back.

“I am adamant they will play a lot together for England and, hopefully, back at Somerset one day, too. Letting Jos go was a big mistake but he still loves the club and you can’t take the Somerset out of the boy.

“I use them as examples for those coming through [Sanderson is now director of cricket at Taunton School] as anybody in the county should be looking up to them and aspiring to be like them.

“Neither of them came from privileged backgrounds – they are normal lads supported by solid families – so they are an example to everyone.”