ONE man who deserves plenty of credit for Yorkshire’s progress to Finals Day is Alex Lees.
The 23-year-old opening batsman, who took over the leadership of Yorkshire’s one-day sides last December, has helped mastermind a stunning turnaround in form which sees Yorkshire as favourites with most bookmakers to lift the trophy.
As a young and inexperienced captain, Lees must have felt the pressure of Yorkshire’s poor start to the tournament more than most.
But he has shown great character and maturity to help get their campaign back on track, and he said he is relishing the chance to lead them out at Edgbaston today.
“Definitely. It’s always an honour to represent the White Rose, so the opportunity to lead the side in a Finals Day is massive,” said Lees, who is Yorkshire’s youngest full-time limited overs captain having taken over the role from Championship leader Andrew Gale.
“I’ve not been to a Finals Day as a player before, but I have watched a few on television.
“The atmosphere is always electric, and I can’t wait to get out there and, hopefully, we can play some good cricket and entertain the crowd.”
Yorkshire go into today’s event with confidence high after seven wins in their last eight T20 games.
Lees attributes the transformation to the players discovering a sense of belief.
“We were obviously disappointed with the early-season results, but we never felt that we were far away from playing some very good cricket,” said Lees.
“I think the turning point in our white-ball cricket this season was Lythy’s (Adam Lyth) knock against Northants at Scarborough (in the Royal London Cup).
“He played with real freedom that day, and that has given the rest of the squad confidence to go out and express themselves in both competitions.
“We’ve got a lot of talented players, and everyone understands their roles and we’ve backed ourselves and taken a very positive approach, looking to put as much pressure as possible on the opposition.
“Hopefully, we can take take approach into the semi-final against Durham.”
Lees is expecting a tough test against a Durham team boosted by the return of England’s Ben Stokes. But he believes that his own side have more than enough firepower to beat them.
“Durham are a very good side with some very experienced players who know their games inside out,” said Lees.
“We will have to play very well to defeat them and to progress to the final, but we know that we have the players on the day to do just that.
“We’ve been playing some great T20 cricket at just the right time, and I’m confident in the strength of our team. Everyone’s been contributing, and it’s a proper team effort to get to this stage.”
No-one has contributed more than Lees, who is Yorkshire’s leading run-scorer in the tournament with 272 at 22.66.
He is just ahead of David Willey, who has hit 269 runs at 29.88, while Lyth, Jack Leaning and Kane Williamson have also scored more than 200 runs for the county in this year’s competition, with Williamson having featured briefly as an overseas player before rejoining New Zealand for international action.
Tim Bresnan leads Yorkshire’s wicket-taking list with 20 at 16.20, with spinners Adil Rashid (14 at 18.85) and Azeem Rafiq (13 at 18.69) coming next on the chart.
“I feel like I’ve been hitting the ball nicely all season,” said Lees, who made 85 and 114 not out in the draw against Lancashire in the County Championship at Old Trafford last week.
“It was nice to get some runs in the Roses game, and, hopefully, I can take that form into the semi-final.”