Alexander Zak Lees
April 14, 1993, Halifax, Yorkshire
Left hand bat
Alex Lees' was showered with accolades early in his career. Judges of the quality of Geoffrey Boycott and Michael Vaughan predicted England honours ahead and his stock was such that, after a successful trial, in 2016 he became Yorkshire's captain in both one-day formats - at 22, the youngest to hold the office, remarkably, since Lord Hawke.
Lees had been taught magic by his uncle, a member of the Magic Circle, and to gain the captaincy so young was not a bad trick to perform. He led Yorkshire to only their second appearance in Twenty20 Finals Day, but his spell in the captaincy lasted only one year and was widely regarded as a mistake. Jason Gillespie left as Yorkshire's coach, back-to-back Championships on his CV, and the incoming coach, Andrew Gale, preferred one captain across all formats and appointed Gary Ballance. When Ballance regained his England place, Lees was also overlooked, and the runs began to dry up again, too.
Things did not work out as planned at Yorkshire. By the time he left Headingley for Chester-le-Street in August 2018, loaned out to Durham ahead of a permanent move, he had long cut a disconsolate figure, and the repetitive manner of his dismissals had become exasperating. Yorkshire accepted that a change was necessary, conceding that he could well excel at a new county. Durham believed that, at 25, they had signed a player who could restate his international pedigree; three hundreds in his first full season, leading the way for his new side in the Championship, suggested they might be right.
Lees, who first represented Yorkshire at U-13 level and who went on to skipper the Academy and 2nd XI teams, made his first-class debut aged 17. After much soul-searching, he turned down a chance to represent England U-19s at the 2012 World Cup because he had recently lost his father and stated that he also wished to concentrate on furthering his Yorkshire career. The following year, he signed full professional terms and went on to become the youngest Yorkshire player to make a Championship double-century - 20 years and 95 days - when he hit an unbeaten 275 against Derbyshire at Chesterfield. He had earlier made a maiden Championship hundred against Middlesex. It was no surprise therefore to find himself on an England Lions tour to Sri Lanka early in 2014.
Lees' part in Yorkshire's 2014 Championship triumph amplified his reputation. He did not make 1000 Championship runs, outshone statistically by his opening partner Adam Lyth, but England observers liked his style and he continued to feature for the Lions. He also claimed both the PCA and CWC Young Player awards.
The following summer was more challenging as he made just one Championship hundred. But the limited-overs captaincy seemed to invigorate him, and in 2016 he topped Yorkshire's run charts with 1165 runs. Against Durham, he fell 12 runs shy of becoming the first batsman to make two hundreds in a first-class match at Headingley.
By the time he left Yorkshire, he had played 89 first-class matches, scoring just shy of 5000 runs and averaging 34.53. He played a key role in Yorkshire's back-to-back County Championship titles in 2014 and 2015 and won England Lions trips to Sri Lanka and South Africa. But the days when the opening combination of Lees and Lyth could be compared, statistically at least, to Percy Holmes and Herbert Sutcliffe had long departed.
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