Monday, June 27, 2022

Lee’s hopeful ‘Yorkshire stubbornness’ helps cement England Test spot

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As a youngster, Alex Lees was compared to Australia great Matthew Hayden but the England opener believes it is his ‘Yorkshire stubbornness’ that can help him cement a Test career.

The Durham left-hander was a highly rated, hard-hitting prospect at Headingley when Jason Gillespie nicknamed him ‘Haydos’, the nickname of his former Baggy Greens team-mate, rattling through to 30 Test centuries.

This early comparison may come as a surprise to England fans, who have seen a more conservative Lees over the course of his first four caps.

He has a top score of 31 from eight innings and is making his runs at a leisurely 30.05 batting rate, but there were hints of his old ways in the final innings of the first Test win, as he peeled off four well-hit boundaries his way to 20th place.

His release left work to be done but he was praised by captain Ben Stokes and centurion Joe Root ahead of this week’s follow-up at Trent Bridge.

The 29-year-old knows he will soon need a significant goal to cement his position but is confident in his game having balanced the courage of his youth with a dose of pragmatism.

“Last week was probably the smoothest innings I’ve had. I was happy with the way I played, but the obvious thing is I have to take that and turn it into a respectable inning,” he said.

“Being praised for a 20 is probably bittersweet. If you can get a good 20, you know you can probably get a 60, 70, 80. I keep getting on and off which is frustrating.

“When you open the batting, you face the best bowlers, sometimes at the worst times. Surviving a spell or surviving a tough day of cricket is something I’ve always enjoyed immensely… it’s that old Yorkshire stubbornness.

“There will always be speculation about the top order in England… I just never really wanted to shy away from the challenge.”

As for his old nickname, he admitted it doesn’t ring as true now as it did in his formative years.

“Early on in my career, particularly when I was in Yorkshire, I only played in one gear, which was ‘attack, attack, attack,'” he said.

“I think Jason (call me Haydos) back then, but I’m not sure if there are too many similarities to be honest. But I’ve been called a lot worse, so I’ll take it!

“Growing up as a batsman, I loved watching him bat and also Marcus Trescothick, those powerful left-handed batsmen who took the game to bowling attacks.

“The older you get, the smarter you get and you approach situations differently. As a cricketer I’ve probably absorbed the pressure more than I used to in recent years.

“It doesn’t put me under any pressure to make two hundred in this game, but I’m aware I’d like to get a good result.”

England scored a net at Trent Bridge on Wednesday afternoon, with captain Stokes playing a reduced role with the ball.

Stokes, who has sustained a knee injury, delivered just 9.4 overs in his first appearance in charge of the team at Lord’s and ended his first stint after just a handful of deliveries with obvious discomfort in his side.

The all-rounder hit extensively and returned for a second bowling stint, but kept his workload in check while he and head coach Brendon McCullum oversaw the action.

Spinner Jack Leach rolled into center for the first time since suffering a concussion in a freak field accident on day one of the first Test, part of a gradual return to action that leaves his place in Nottingham in doubt.

Matt Parkinson, who acted as a substitute at Lord’s, is back and Craig Overton is on hand should England decide to go full tempo on the attack.

Should there be concerns about Stokes’ ability to play a full roll with the ball, Overton could be an attractive addition and would also stiffen a fragile tail.

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