Chris Waters: Wishing Alex Lees all the best on move to Durham

Fresh start ahead: Alex Lees.
Fresh start ahead: Alex Lees.
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“I think he’s very good. I just like everything about him. I watch technique very closely, but I also watch out for their mental application. I like the whole package with him.”

That was Geoffrey Boycott speaking about Alex Lees in 2013, but it could have been any ex-player making those remarks.

In the match at Chesterfield, Lees displayed Boycottian resolve in batting for nearly 10 hours and facing 436 balls, playing every delivery on its merits.

Chris Waters

Michael Vaughan was similarly complimentary. So were many leading journalists and pundits. All were in agreement that Lees had what it takes to one day play for England.

He still might, but, five years on from Boycott’s ringing endorsement, Lees’s career has hit a rough patch.

The man who became, aged 20 years and 95 days, Yorkshire’s youngest double centurion with 275 not out against Derbyshire at Chesterfield in 2013; who won the Cricket Writers’ Club Young Cricketer of the Year award having played a key role in Yorkshire’s 2014 Championship title; whose partnership with Adam Lyth was compared to that of the great inter-war Yorkshire openers Percy Holmes and Herbert Sutcliffe; who became Yorkshire’s youngest captain since Lord Hawke when he was appointed to lead the white-ball sides in December, 2015, was last week released by the club.

Lees has joined Durham on loan until the end of the season before taking up a three-year contract with the Division Two strugglers. It has been a challenging time for the popular left-hander.

So, how has it come to this? How has one of English cricket’s brightest young talents found himself on a downward curve, one which has seen him suffer to the extent that he has scored 79 runs in his last 12 first-class innings at an average of 6.58?

It is a mystery to many Yorkshire supporters and, quite possibly, to Lees himself, for no-one who can win the admiration of such as Boycott and Vaughan can be considered a mug.

At Headingley, there are those who claim that the answer perhaps lies in a change of approach, who say that Lees’s batting philosophy changed – subconsciously or otherwise – following that promising start to his career.

In the match at Chesterfield, Lees displayed Boycottian resolve in batting for nearly 10 hours and facing 436 balls, playing every delivery on its merits.

However, some sensed in him an increasing desire to dominate, to play the big shots. He found himself out of the one-day team and, who knows, perhaps adapted to try and nail down a place.

Lees is a strong and stubborn individual, a man always working tirelessly to develop his game. Stubbornness can be a great strength in a sportsman; Boycott, for example, would have to be positively wrenched from the crease.

But, for whatever reason, the returns became less prolific, although it should always be remembered that Lees produced some terrific innings for Yorkshire in all forms of cricket.

Lately, as we all wished him well from the sidelines, it has been hard to watch him suffering in the spotlight; his dismissal in what turned out to be his last first-class innings for the club, against Surrey at Scarborough in June, was a case in point when he tried to drill Morne Morkel down the ground early in his innings and was caught at mid-on, the shot of a man perhaps trying too hard.

Hopefully, the move to Durham will be just what he needs.

A fresh start and a fresh chance to show just what an outstanding player we all know he is.