ALEX LEES is adamant that Yorkshire’s elimination from the Royal London One-Day Cup will not derail their bid to win the County Championship.
Yorkshire missed out on their second crack at silverware this summer when they lost to Durham in the 50-over quarter-final at Headingley on Thursday.
It followed their disappointing exit from the T20 Blast, when they failed to reach the knockout stage despite having the world’s best T20 batsman in Aaron Finch.
But opening batsman Lees believes this latest cup setback will inspire Yorkshire to end their season with the biggest trophy of all.
Speaking ahead of tomorrow’s Championship game against Lancashire at Old Trafford, Lees said: “It was desperately disappointing to lose against Durham, but I think it will only spur us on in the Championship.
“When something like that happens, especially when you’ve been playing good one-day cricket, you’ve got to use that to fuel you and I think it will motivate us.
“We’re still in a good place, and we just have to use what happened to kick on. We’ve got three games left in red-ball cricket, and there’s a lot of confidence and belief among the players.”
Yorkshire head to Old Trafford – where they have not won a Championship game since 2002 – with a six-point lead at the top of the table.
Success so far has been a team effort – one to which Lees, 21, has played a full part.
“My form has been all right,” said Lees, who has hit 739 Championship runs at 41.05.
“I’ve felt decent in patches, and if I can put in a couple of good performances at the back end of the season, I’ll have had a decent year.
“If I have a mediocre back end, it’s just a steady season in my opinion.
“It’s important for me to kick on and get a couple of big scores to try to help the team into some good positions.”
Lees’s modest appraisal of his own contribution should not mask its clear significance to the side.
In tandem with fellow left-hander Adam Lyth, he has forged an opening partnership to be feared – one that has realised an average stand of 71 in this year’s Championship, including three century partnerships and a highest of 375 at Northamptonshire – the fourth-highest stand in Yorkshire’s history.
“The two of us have a great rapport and we’ve had some good partnerships in red and white-ball cricket,” said Lees.
“If we can tick off a few more big partnerships in the last three games, I’m sure we’ll be pretty content with how we’ve gone.
“We enjoy batting with each other and keep each other going, and I’d like to think we complement each other well.
“There’s no real recipe to it; we both get on and just try to make sure that whoever’s batting at No 3 doesn’t bat.”
Such has been their success that Yorkshire captain Andrew Gale has even compared the duo to the great Australian pair of Justin Langer and Matthew Hayden.
Gale was referring to the physical similarities, with Lyth a diminutive stylist in the mould of Langer and Lees a bullying presence in the manner of Hayden, after whom he is nicknamed “Haydos” by his Yorkshire colleagues.
“I don’t know who Galey’s been watching,” laughed Lees. “Obviously, it’s very nice of him to say it, but Hayden averaged 50 in pretty much all forms.
“If I can be half as good as he was, I’ll be doing all right. He was in a different league to the likes of myself.”
It might not be too long, however, before Lees is testing himself in international cricket if he continues his recent development.
He was part of the England Lions tour to Sri Lanka earlier this year and impressed with his talent, temperament and humility.
For now, he is simply concentrating on trying to help Yorkshire win the title.
And his insistence that cup heartbreak will have no bearing on the Championship was echoed by Jason Gillespie, the Yorkshire first-team coach.
“We’ll come out with our heads held high on Sunday,” said Gillespie.
“It was disappointing to lose to Durham, but we’ll dust ourselves down and come back fighting.”
With the Old Trafford pitch expected to turn, Yorkshire have included Karl Carver, the 18-year-old left-arm spinner, in an extended 14-man squad.
Yorkshire have announced that the spectator who suffered a heart attack during the Durham game and sadly died was David Gronow, of Huddersfield.
Mr Gronow, 70, was a popular figure in league cricket and a former captain of Armitage Bridge Cricket Club.
Play at Headingley was suspended for 30 minutes while paramedics attended in front of the pavilion, and Yorkshire have expressed their deepest sympathy to Mr Gronow’s family and friends.