“CAN we play you every week?” is one of the oldest refrains in sport.
It certainly applies to Alex Lees and Derbyshire, the Yorkshire batsman continuing his love affair with the East Midlands county.
Lees appears to relish facing Derbyshire, against whom he has had three innings – one in the Championship, two in T20 – and scored 403 runs without being dismissed.
He certainly appears to relish the Queen’s Park ground, where he hit 67 not out yesterday to follow a career-best 275 not out in the Championship last summer, his other innings against Derbyshire an unbeaten 61 in the T20 at Headingley earlier this season.
Significantly, each innings has come in a winning cause.
Yorkshire won the Championship game by an innings and 113 runs, they won the T20 at Headingley by eight wickets, and they won this match by 59 runs, climbing to second in the North Division with two games to play to plonk one foot in the quarter-finals.
In glorious conditions, with the sun beating down on a 4,000 crowd, Lees top-scored out of 183-4 after Yorkshire were sent into bat.
The left-hander thumped three of his first six balls for six, the first of which should have been held at long-off by Alex Hughes, who palmed the ball over the boundary off the bowling of former Yorkshire left-arm spinner David Wainwright.
Lees connected much more cleanly with Wainwright’s next delivery, which he sent soaring straight over the pavilion and out of the ground.
From his next ball faced, Lees lofted Chesney Hughes’s left-arm spin for six over long-off, once more marrying immaculate timing with physical power.
Lees never quite repeated such fireworks but accumulated steadily and sensibly throughout
There were four fours to go with his sixes – a sumptuous cover-drive off Chesney Hughes, a similar shot off the off-spinner Wes Durston – immediately followed by a rasping straight four off the same bowler that raised his fifty from 32 balls – and an off-drive off left-arm pace bowler Greg Cork, son of former England all-rounder Dominic.
Lees is Yorkshire’s leading run-scorer in T20 this season with 284 at 47.33, something one might not have predicted before the start of the summer.
If anyone was going to be leading run-scorer, one might have presumed it would be Aaron Finch.
But the big-hitting Australian has largely struggled, and he was first out here for 10 to the penultimate ball of the sixth over, caught at cover off a leading edge trying to hit Mark Turner into the leg-side.
Take out his match-winning 88 against Lancashire at Old Trafford and Finch has managed just 66 runs in seven T20 innings at 9.42.
Yorkshire’s other overseas star, Kane Williamson, did not miss out, though, giving the innings a flying start.
The New Zealander, who opened with Finch, hit seven of his first 12 balls to the boundary, including three off-side fours in the opening over bowled by Durston.
Williamson, like Lees, is all about timing, and there was dazzling evidence of it when he deftly dabbed Alex Hughes to the third-man rope.
Williamson hit a six too, lofting the off-spin of Marcus North over mid-wicket towards the scoreboard, where Billy Godleman could only tip over the bar.
Williamson played back to North’s next ball and was bowled for 41 off 26 deliveries, leaving Yorkshire 79-2 in the 10th over.
Jonny Bairstow was unable to reprise his remarkable hundred at Durham on Friday, falling for eight this time when he was stumped off North, but Andrew Gale injected timely impetus on his return in place of Ollie Robinson after being dropped for the match at Chester-le-Street.
The Yorkshire captain freed his arms with a cover-driven four off North and then hit out as 68 runs came off the last five overs.
Gale hammered Turner for six over mid-wicket to go with four fours before he was fourth out in the penultimate over, caught at deep square-leg for 34 off 19 deliveries.
After Lees and Gale’s stand of 65 in 38 balls, Tim Bresnan rounded off the innings with an unbeaten 16 from five deliveries, including a six over cover off Turner.
North was the pick of the bowlers with 2-27.
Gareth Cross gave Derbyshire’s reply a promising start.
The former Lancashire man hit 37 off 19 balls with four fours and three sixes, including the first 33 runs scored.
Williamson had removed Durston with the first ball of the innings but Yorkshire could have been forgiven for breathing a sigh of relief when Cross skied the off-spinner to deep mid-wicket in the fifth over.
The rest of Derbyshire’s innings, to be frank, was pretty dismal.
Wayne Madsen chipped a simple catch to long-on, Godleman danced down the track and was stumped, North was caught-and-bowled, Alex Hughes taken at deep mid-wicket, Chesney Hughes caught at long-on, Tom Knight pouched at deep backward-square and Turner held at mid-on.
Nine wickets fell to spin as Rafiq captured three and Williamson, Adil Rashid and Adam Lyth two apiece.
Yorkshire return to T20 action on Friday against Warwickshire at Headingley, concluding their group campaign against Nottinghamshire at Headingley the following Friday.