THE latest batsman to roll off the Yorkshire production line, Alex Lees believes he is closer to the England set-up than onlookers might expect.
Lees enjoyed a breakout summer in 2013, following a maiden first-class century at Lord’s with a record breaking unbeaten 275 against Derbyshire in July to become Yorkshire’s youngest double centurion.
And the 20-year-old is just the latest in a string of Headingley products, with Joe Root, Jonny Bairstow and Gary Ballance each graduating to the senior England set-up in recent years.
Ballance is the most recent success story, earning a spot in this winter’s Ashes touring party and being touted for a debut already.
And Lees, who is currently with the England Performance Programme squad in Australia, believes his fellow left-hander offers plenty of encouragement.
“It’s the realisation that if you do work hard, you are actually closer than you are maybe perceived,” he said. “All it takes is a blinding summer and you’re being mentioned for the team, so hopefully I have a good couple of years and keep doing the right thing and we’ll see what happens. “When you start playing for Yorkshire or the academy, you are playing with the guys week in, week out. All it takes is a broken finger or somebody who is tiring and there is a spot available.
“All of a sudden you see those lads, they go up and do well and there is that realisation that you’re actually not too far away.
“I have obviously got to concentrate on getting runs for Yorkshire at the minute and really establishing myself in that team first.
“If I do that, then maybe down the line you like to think you will be somewhere near.”
Despite breaking records and making headlines in his debut season, Lees found himself left out of the side towards the end of the summer.
A perfect storm of overseas signings and players returning from international duty left a surplus of batsmen at Headingley and saw him play just one of the last four Championship matches of the season.
“I would probably have liked to play a little more than I did,” he added. “I had played well all winter and I was obviously looking to see if I could try and get into the team on a regular basis.
“I probably couldn’t have been hitting the ball any better than I was at that moment in time.
“Sometimes things like that happen and you just have to get on with it. We obviously had a really strong batting line-up.
“I think we had Adil Rashid batting at eight and Liam Plunkett batting nine – these guys are probably comfortable at six or seven.
“In the end I played quite a few games but I think the 2014 season will be a big season for me personally.”
However, his inclusion in this winter’s England Performance Programme squad is acknowledgement of a fruitful summer that began with Yorkshire and England legend Geoffrey Boycott tipping the youngster for great things.
“It’s nice to have praise off players and people of his calibre and obviously he is a big figure at Yorkshire but I knew that obviously I had to do the business, really,” he added. “There can be loads of people saying somebody is going to be brilliant, but if they actually don’t perform then it’s only words.”
Follow the England Performance Programme squad and their progress this winter at www.ecb.co.uk/epp