ALEX LEES is hoping that a two-month spell in the Bay of Plenty in New Zealand will lead to plenty of runs for Yorkshire next summer.
The opening batsman has headed to the southern hemisphere to play grade cricket as he attempts to hit the ground running for the English season.
Lees, 23, has likened the standard of cricket he will encounter as similar to that of the English minor counties.
“In my mind, it’s a bit like going to play for a Shropshire or similar,” he said.
Lees, who was relieved of the one-day captaincy of Yorkshire last month following the appointment of Gary Ballance for all three formats, can now concentrate on improving his own game.
After a disappointing 2015, when he fell short of his own high standards, Lees made impressive strides last summer when he was the club’s leading run-scorer in the County Championship with 1,165 at 40.17 – 32 more than opening partner Adam Lyth, the only other Yorkshire player to reach four-figures.
Lees’s trip, which has been part-facilitated by his former Yorkshire team-mate Kane Williamson, the New Zealand international, will also see him train with - and possibly play for - Northern Districts.
Lees is set to play a handful of three-day games for Bay of Plenty in addition to a number of one-day matches before returning to Headingley.
“I’m playing for the Bay of Plenty side and training with the Northern Districts state squad through to early March,” explained Lees, who said last month that he fully understood Yorkshire’s decision to give the one-day reins to Ballance, thus ensuring continuity across the formats.
“I may even get a four-day game or two for Northern Districts, depending on how things go with my form and their availability.
“It will be a good life experience, and hopefully I can play some good cricket.
“I have been doing some research on the Bay of Plenty, and I think the best comparison I can make is to Minor Counties cricket in England.”
Lees, who hails from Halifax, faces a key summer as he tries to further his international ambitions.
He has been earmarked for big things from a young age and the signs last season were much more encouraging.
Of his New Zealand adventure, Lees added: “I think the Bay of Plenty play three or four three-day games while I’m there on top of one-day games.
“I think it’s going to work out perfectly.
“Even if I don’t play for Northern Districts, there will be just enough cricket to go with some downtime in between to charge my batteries.
“I want to play and improve, but I also want to see some of New Zealand.”
Lees is training hard in preparation for his Bay of Plenty debut later this month.
He said he might also get placed with a local club side for one or two matches.