YORKSHIRE chief Martyn Moxon is backing Alex Lees to learn from his mistake after the club took disciplinary action against their one-day captain for publicly criticising an umpire.
Lees has been handed a two-match ban – suspended for 12 months – after he blamed umpire Martin Saggers for the three-wicket defeat to Notts in the NatWest T20 Blast at Trent Bridge on Friday.
Lees branded one of Saggers’s decisions “terrible” and said that the former England pace bowler was not “doing his job properly” in comments made to the media after the match.
In the fifth over of the Notts’ reply, Saggers ruled that Yorkshire had three fielders outside the 30-yard fielding circle instead of the two permitted under powerplay regulations when Lees himself was adjudged to have ventured beyond the ring.
It resulted in a no-ball, a free hit that went for four, and an extra ball in Liam Plunkett’s over that disappeared for six in a tight match that Notts won with two balls to spare.
Yorkshire, whose action against Lees heads off any potential England and Wales Cricket Board-related disciplinary panel hearing, issued a statement in which Lees apologised to Saggers.
The 23-year-old described his comments as “uncharacteristic” and said that they were made “in the heat of the moment”.
Lees’s two-match ban will be activated should he breach any ECB directive in the next 12 months.
He is the second Yorkshire captain in three seasons to be disciplined after Andrew Gale, the club’s four-day captain, was suspended by the ECB and banned from lifting the trophy for comments made to Ashwell Prince during a Roses match.
Director of cricket Moxon said that Yorkshire were keen to take appropriate action against Lees and that the player accepted his suspended penalty.
He believes that Lees will now put the incident behind him as he continues in his first full season as one-day leader.
“I’m sure that Alex will learn from it,” said Moxon.
“He was a bit strong in what he said, and it’s a lesson to everyone that you cannot publicly criticise any individual as that’s part of the regulations that we all sign up to.
“It was an emotional time just after the game; we’d just lost the match, and there were the circumstances of the no-ball call.
“During an interview straight after the game, it’s difficult to take a deep breath sometimes and to give answers that don’t get you into trouble.
“We had to take the right course of action under the circumstances, and Alex accepts that.
“He accepts that he was out of order and he has apologised to the umpire.
“At the end of the day, Alex understands the situation.
“Hopefully, there’ll be no repeat and no need for the suspended ban to be imposed.”
Yorkshire were praised for their handling of the matter by the Cricket Discipline Commission, which operates at arm’s length from the ECB but administers discipline covered by the governing body’s rules, regulations and directives.
Gerard Elias QC, the Cricket Discipline Commission chairman, said: “I am grateful to Yorkshire CCC for taking such prompt and decisive action in this matter.
“It is an excellent example of a county recognising the standard of conduct that is required by its players and taking measures which clearly demonstrate that anything below that standard will not be accepted.”
Yorkshire have not been slow to discipline players in recent times, regardless of talent or status.
England star Liam Plunkett and Australian batsman Glenn Maxwell were left out of matches last year, with Yorkshire insisting that no one is bigger than the club.
It is a policy that has won the respect of the Yorkshire players themselves, with Plunkett having spoken of how it gave him even more motivation after he was disciplined for missing a team photo call.
Lees is a young player and an inexperienced captain whose remarks must also be considered in the light of yet another difficult T20 campaign for Yorkshire, who must realistically win their last three group games to qualify for the quarter-finals, starting with tonight’s match against Durham at Headingley (6.30pm).
“We probably need to win all three games now,” said Moxon, with Yorkshire ending their North Group programme with a double-header against Northants at Headingley on Friday and at Wantage Road on Friday, July 29.
“It’s in our hands still, and, hopefully, we can achieve our aim.
“We are improving.
“We won three on the trot prior to the Notts match, and I think the fact that we pushed Notts so close and could have won that game shows there is improvement.
“We are starting to see a method of playing taking shape.”
Yorkshire are without Adil Rashid tonight after his call-up for Friday’s second Test against Pakistan at Old Trafford so welcome back fellow spinner Karl Carver.
David Willey hopes to be fit after he missed the Notts game through illness.