Yorkshire openers set sights on England Test spots

ADAM LYTH and Alex Lees have won two of cricket’s most prestigious awards in a major boost to the Yorkshire openers as they battle to break into the England side.

Yorkshire's Alex Lees and Adam Lyth provided a solid foundation for Yorkshire's batting on many occasions this season.. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe.
Yorkshire's Alex Lees and Adam Lyth provided a solid foundation for Yorkshire's batting on many occasions this season.. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe.

Lyth, 27, has been named The Cricket Writers’ Club County Championship Cricketer of the Year after starring in Yorkshire’s title triumph.

The Whitby-born left-hander scored 1,489 runs at 67.68, the highest return in Division One.

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Lees, 21, has been named The Cricket Writers’ Club Young Cricketer of the Year after making 971 runs at 44.13.

The Halifax-born left-hander was Yorkshire’s second-highest scorer and made major strides in his first full season.

The players received their awards yesterday at a gala dinner in London attended by the world’s leading cricket writers and by members of the Yorkshire County Cricket Club hierarchy.

It will only increase the profile of the Yorkshire duo as they look to force their way into the England team, with Lyth in pole position to open the batting in Test cricket alongside England captain Alastair Cook and Lees not far behind in the pecking order.

A vacancy exists to open with Cook after Sam Robson, the Middlesex batsman, failed to nail down a place last summer, and Lyth and Lees are set to be given a chance to further their claims on the England Lions’ tour of South Africa in the New Year.

England return to Test action in April in the West Indies, when the smart money is on Lyth getting the nod.

“It’s in my hands now and hopefully I can keep performing,” said Lyth, who has also been nominated – along with Yorkshire team-mate Jack Brooks – for the Professional Cricketers’ Association Player of the Year Award, with Lees in line for the Young Player accolade at the PCA dinner in London tonight.

“If I do get the chance to play (for England), I don’t think I’d do a bad job; in fact, I think I’d do a very good job.

“I’m happy with how the season has gone both on a personal level and for the team, and, hopefully, the winter will be as good if not better. Fingers crossed, I can continue to do well.”

Lyth and Lees are among six Yorkshire players in the 19-man England Performance Programme (EPP) this winter, which also includes batsman/wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow, leg-spinner Adil Rashid and pace bowlers Brooks and Liam Plunkett.

The EPP squad, led by former England team director Andy Flower, will undertake training at the National Cricket Performance Centre in Loughborough before a three-week camp in Sri Lanka for the batsman and spin bowlers, and a separate camp for the fast bowlers in South Africa.

Lees, who was part of the EPP that toured Australia last winter, is highly regarded by the selectors who view him as a fine long-term prospect.

Like Lyth, however, he has his feet firmly on the ground and believes his county colleague is ahead of him in England terms.

“I think that’s the case,” said Lees.

“Realistically, I feel I’m a little bit away yet (from England), and Lythy has got six years on me in any case.

“He’s been unbelievable this year when you look at it, and the consistency he has shown – with no real dip – has been a credit to him.

“It’s been a privilege to play alongside him and to watch him perform from the other end.”

Lyth and Lees formed the cornerstone of Yorkshire’s Championship triumph, registering an average stand of 72.

They raised four century stands in the competition to go with six half-century partnerships, with a highest of 375 against Northamptonshire at Wantage Road – the fourth-highest stand in Yorkshire’s history.

The Cricket Writers’ Club awards are evidence of how far they have come and how they are regarded both nationally and internationally.

The County Championship Cricketer of the Year award is only in its third year, having been won in 2012 by Nick Compton and in 2013 by Wayne Madsen, and can be gained by any player of any age provided he is England-qualified.

The Young Cricketer of the Year award is a long-standing tradition that dates back to 1950, when it was won by Roy Tattersall, the former Lancashire and England off-spin bowler.

Winners of this award have amassed 2,325 Test caps and 1,878 limited-overs international caps between them, with the criteria for this year’s accolade that the player must have been under 23 on May 1.

There have been 65 winners of the award in total (the honour was shared in 1986 between Ashley Metcalfe and James Whitaker), of which 11 have been Yorkshire players. In addition to Lees, the award was won by Fred Trueman (1952), Philip Sharpe (1962), Geoffrey Boycott (1963), Chris Old (1970), Ashley Metcalfe (1986), Richard Blakey (1987), Chris Silverwood (1996), Adil Rashid (2007), Jonny Bairstow (2011) and Joe Root (2012).