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Alex Lees reflects on West Indies series

Durham batsman Alex Lees has said his experience as a Test opener in the latest West Indies series provides him with "valuable learning".

“The West Indies series looking back now was valuable learning for me and I think you need to learn,” Lees said.

“I don’t think there are often that many people who are amazing at it [Test cricket] straight away.”

Lees made 126 runs in six innings in the three-match series, recording an average of 21 and a high score of 31. He is now preparing to show what he has learnt in this month’s series against South Africa.

Under the guidance of Brendon McCullum and Ben Stokes, the 29-year-old helped England win against New Zealand and India earlier this summer.

Stokes has been supportive of Lees since the latter’s introduction to the England Test set-up. He praised Lees for a fleeting 20 in the second innings at Lord’s against New Zealand.

“As a cricketer, you understand little moments in games that have more value than the actual score or wickets taken,” Stokes said.

England Men's Cricket managing director Rob Key said he told McCullum and Stokes to encourage Lees and Jonny Bairstow to play with more freedom.

"It's little things really, like Alex Lees for example who played in a stodgy manner in the Caribbean," Key said.

"But Stokesy made a real point in the dressing room afterwards with Alex Lees and was just like 'the way you went and played there, that intent you showed is what we want. That's the best I've ever seen you play for England'. So they're giving full clarity on how they want someone to play.”

Change in batting style

Lees used to play more aggressively in his early years at Yorkshire due to being inspired by Marcus Trescothick and Matthew Hayden. He described them as “powerful left-handed batters who took the game to bowling attacks”. As a result of his play style, his coach at the time, Jason Gillespie, called him Haydos.

He first showed some changes at Lord’s in the first Test against New Zealand. Lees made only 20 runs that day, but Stokes still praised him, saying it was his best performance.

"Last week was probably the most fluent innings I've had to date," Lees said. "I was pleased in the manner I played but the obvious thing is that I have to take that and turn it into a substantial innings.

"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. I keep getting in and out, which is frustrating. There's always going to be speculation about the top order in England… I just never really wanted to shy away from the challenge of it."

Lees' stint at Yorkshire

Lees graduated from the Yorkshire Academy. Under Paul Farbrace, Lees led various second XI teams of Yorkshire at different age groups.

He also became the county’s youngest double centurion, having scored 275 not out against Derbyshire. Lees lost his Yorkshire captaincy to Garry Ballance, which appeared to affect his batting performance. Regardless, he was important in Yorkshire’s back-to-back County Championship titles in 2014 and 2015. He also won Professional Cricket’s Association and Cricket World Cup awards

In 2017, Lees made more than 1,000 runs. When he left Yorkshire, Lees had played 89 first-class matches, scoring nearly 5,000 runs with an average of 34.53.

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