Worcestershire’s promotion-winning captain Joe Leach has signed a new three year contract – and Director Of Cricket Steve Rhodes believes it sends a message to people who doubted whether they could retain their best players.

Leach led from the front in his first year as skipper with 69 wickets in the Specsavers County Championship – the highest tally in Division Two in 2017.

The 26-year-old had 12 months remaining of his current deal but has put pen to paper until the end of the 2020 campaign.

Leach has followed in the footsteps of Brett D’Oliveira, Ed Barnard, Josh Tongue, Tom Fell, George Rhodes, George Scrimshaw, Ollie Westbury and Alex Milton who all recently signed new contracts.

He has been a mainstay of the County’s attack for the past three seasons with 193 Championship wickets in that period.

Rhodes said: “I think Joe signing a new contract is a big thing for everyone, the dressing room, the board, vice-presidents, members and supporters and everyone else connected with the club.

“Joe has been so consistent with the ball in Championship cricket and, to secure his services for the next three years, I think it sends a message to everyone.

“We’ve got a lot of our players who are now signed up and a lot of people didn’t think we would be able to do that.

“The team and the dressing room are sticking together and they are signing longer deals.

“Hopefully that will be a really good thing in our plan to get to where we want to be because part of that plan is to secure our best players. Joe is one of our best players and he has signed a three year deal.

“He bowls wicket-taking balls but one of the areas he has improved even from last year is that he is more consistent in terms of the spells he bowls.”

Leach defied an ankle problem and then a side strain to play all 14 Championship games and continue to pose a threat.

Rhodes said: “His resilience to stay on the park is one of the big pluses about Joe. He tends to play that full season – and if you play that full season, you get that reward.

“Most bowlers are very rarely 100 per cent fit all the time and he fitted into that category more than others. He managed his injuries really well which is something bowlers have to learn to do.

“Other people may well have sat on the side-lines and watched the game rather than played it but Joe managed got through all the games and was proud of doing that.

“He had an ankle injury and a side strain and understanding your body is important in your career and what you can and can’t do.

“Certainly with that side strain, it was an amazing effort to keep going.”

Leach said: “I’m very pleased to commit my future to the club and off the back of what has been a very good season and very exciting times.

“It is good everyone is signing up and it shows progress.

“We’ve got a good side together now and one that we want to keep developing and building on in the future.

“It is nice for me knowing that my future is here and knowing that I can help shape and influence this team going forward.”