FOR the second time in three seasons, a Yorkshire captain dropped himself last night in the interests of the team.
In April 2014, it was Andrew Gale who took that difficult decision when he left himself out of a County Championship match against Middlesex at Lord’s.
Gale’s decision was prompted by the return of England batsman Joe Root, who presided over an infamous defeat as the hosts chased down 472, in the process earning himself the tongue-in-cheek nickname of “craptain” in the Yorkshire dressing room.
Root also returned to the county side last night along with fellow England batsman Jonny Bairstow, both of whom were made available ahead of the one-day series against Sri Lanka that starts at Trent Bridge on Tuesday.
Their availability, allied to that of fellow ODI players Liam Plunkett, David Willey and Adil Rashid, left Yorkshire with an embarrassment of riches for the visit of Notts, but it was the form of Lees’s opening partner, Adam Lyth, that compelled Yorkshire’s one-day captain to wield the axe on himself.
Hitherto by no means an automatic choice for Yorkshire in limited-overs cricket, Lyth had made an irresistible case for inclusion after back-to-back hundreds in the Royal London Cup last week against Northamptonshire and Lancashire.
It would certainly have been harsh to drop him for a game in which overseas player Kane Williamson was also set to make his first T20 appearance of the summer.
As it turned out, Lees’s selfless act did not prove an actuality, with rain preventing play at Headingley as bottom club Yorkshire suffered their second washout to go with three defeats in their opening five T20 games.
Lees, who is set to leave himself out again tomorrow for the visit of Derbyshire (2.30pm start), when Yorkshire’s England quintet will again be available, has struggled for runs in recent times.
He has not managed a half-century in any form of cricket for 11 innings, while he has only once passed 20 in six combined 50-Over Cup/T20 innings.
Lees was appointed the club’s permanent one-day captain in December after Gale stepped down from the role to concentrate on leading the Championship team.
Yorkshire wanted to put their faith in a talented young player, with Lees having impressed as much with his mature personality as his cricketing acumen.
Commenting on the decision to drop himself, Lees said: “For me, it was a no-brainer.
“Obviously, Rooty and Jonny come back into the team, so two had to miss out there.
“Adam comes back into the team; you can’t not play somebody who’s just scored back-to-back hundreds off 60 balls.
“It’s just a gentle reminder to everyone that nobody’s bigger than this club and, going forward, we want to put out the best team that we can.”
The weather was yet another blow to Yorkshire, whose T20 match against Warwickshire at Edgbaston the previous Friday was also abandoned without a ball being bowled.
They remain the only team in the country this season without a win in T20, a format of the game in which they are desperate to excel as they seek to improve a record of having only once reached Finals Day in the history of the competition.
Yorkshire were also frustrated by the weather last Sunday, when only one over was possible in their Royal London Cup match against Derbyshire at Chesterfield.
They are faring better in that tournament, however, having won two of their opening four games under Lees as they look to build on last year’s achievement of reaching the semi-finals.
Last night’s washout also negated Yorkshire’s plans to pay tribute to Jo Cox MP.
A minute’s silence was to have been observed before the match by a projected crowd of around 8,000, while the players of both sides were to have worn black armbands as a mark of respect.
That tribute is now set to take place before tomorrow’s match.
Mark Arthur, the Yorkshire chief executive, spoke on behalf of Yorkshire County Cricket Club in a statement issued ahead of yesterday’s game in which he described Jo as “a kind, intelligent person who was generous with her time”.
“She genuinely wanted to help others,” he said, “particularly those in her constituency, and make a difference to their lives.
“My heart goes out to her husband, Brendan, and their two young children.”