Alex Lees interview: I have to turn positive England impact into big score

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·5-min read
Alex Lees interview: I have to turn positive England impact into big score
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

When Alex Lees was a youngster at Yorkshire, coach Jason Gillespie used to call him “Haydos”, a nod to his former Australia team-mate Matthew Hayden, one of the most dominant, powerful left-handed openers that cricket has ever seen.

At that stage, Lees seemed highly likely to fellow Yorkshire batters Joe Root, Jonny Bairstow, Gary Ballance and Adam Lyth in taking the step up to international honours. He was captaining the county at 22, scoring regular hundreds, with a method he describes as “one gear, which was attack attack, attack”.

Lees has made it to the England team, but not as a Yorkshire player, or a batter whose approach would often be compared with Hayden, or even Marcus Trescothick, another childhood hero who is now the team’s batting coach. Lees has taken the road less travelled to the top, via a dramatic loss of form that saw him switch Yorkshire for Durham, where he has enjoyed a strong resurgence, as well as twice becoming a father. Now, at 29, he is four Tests into his England career.

“I think life experience helps you the older you get,” says Lees. "I’ve got a young family now too and that challenges you and gives you a different outlook on life. I’m a firm believer in what will be will be and whatever happens will come at the right time for a reason.

“I had some pretty poor times at Yorkshire where I was pretty rubbish to be fair, but you learn from that and as a player you try not to let those periods define you. I’m at the point of my career where it’s the best period of time I could play, not just from a cricket point of view but from the whole of life.

Alex Lees is hoping to make a bigger contribution for England against New Zealand at Trent Bridge (Getty Images)
Alex Lees is hoping to make a bigger contribution for England against New Zealand at Trent Bridge (Getty Images)

“Certainly since I’ve had kids, my drive has shifted to being a dad and wanting to play well for my children. Not necessarily for glitz and glam, but for myself and for my wife to have a Test win at Lord’s and having my kids there even though if we’re being honest they won’t have a clue because they’re too young, but to have that memory as a life experience is invaluable so it certainly has helped.”

Senior team-mates including Ben Stokes, James Anderson and Root have all publicly name-checked Lees’ contribution to England’s win over New Zealand – a steady start in the first innings, then some dashing strokes in the second. But he knows that 25 or 20 does not shape games, and it is becoming a habit; all of his last six Test innings have ended between 20 and 31.

“It [the second innings at Lord’s] was probably the most fluent innings I’ve had to date but the obvious thing to me is that it’s another 20 and out and I keep getting in and out which is frustrating,” he says. “Internally I was pleased in the manner I played and the obvious thing moving forward is that I have to take that and turn it into a substantial innings.

“I think everybody has pride in what they do, to be praised for a 20 is probably bittersweet. If you can get a good 20, you know you can probably make 60, 70, 80. Retrospectively, with the 20, you come off and think: 'I played nicely but ‘god, I'd love a 70’.

“It's not putting pressure on to make a double hundred this game… I'm aware I'd love to make a good score. I'm just going to try and trust it and if I keep playing how I want to play, hopefully that will be alright.

“Naturally as performers we’re quite impatient. Naturally as humans we want things immediately. For me it is the hardest part of the job, to get to 20 or 30 but on reflection it’s obviously very disappointing not to go on and get a substantial contribution which is what I’d love to do.

Lees was praised for his efforts at Lord’s, but is now keen to push on (PA)
Lees was praised for his efforts at Lord’s, but is now keen to push on (PA)

“It’s trusting how I play and as you say I played nicely in that second innings so if I can take that forward and play in that manner over a period of time, the law of averages suggest I should get that contribution. That’s what I’m striving towards.

“The obvious thing is if you've been selected as a batter, I think you always need to show some worth otherwise you know, you're not going to get re-selected. I think the bigger picture for me is that I want to keep playing in a way in which I like to play, which is a way in which Brendon [McCullum, the coach] and Ben want us to play as a team and buy into that team ethos and identity.

Certainly since I’ve had kids, my drive has shifted to being a dad and wanting to play well for my children

“And if I believe that, if we do that, and if I do that, I think there's no reason over the period of the next couple of games why I can’t get a score.”

Lees may no longer be a Yorkshire player, but he hopes some of his county's traditional characteristics will help him thrive at the highest level.

"I think ultimately what I do is I enjoy the battle," he said. "The battle against that individual is probably something that I've enjoyed and that old Yorkshire sort of stubbornness to get through a spell or get through a tough day of cricket is something that I've always quite enjoyed."

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting